‘Govt can use unclaimed monies’

PETALING JAYA: The government can consider tapping unclaimed monies as a source of revenue after establishing a legal framework to protect existing claimants’ right to their money, economists and financial experts suggested.

Universiti Malaya’s Prof Rajah Rasiah said the channelling of unclaimed monies for the government’s use could be done with legal instruments that included attempts to exhaust all avenues to reach the legal owners and their possible beneficiaries.

“A decent grace period should also be established before the money can be transferred to the government’s coffers, ” said the economics professor.

Unclaimed monies managed by the Accountant General’s Department of Malaysia (AGD) totalled RM8.75bil at the end of 2019, after RM2.13bil were returned to their owners.

These monies include payments made to employees such as salaries, bonuses, commissions, as well as dividends and profits declared for distribution.

Others come from insurance claims, tender deposits and sundry creditors or sundry debtors with a credit balance, money from matured fixed deposits, as well as dormant savings, current and fixed deposit accounts.

Thannees Tax Consulting Services Sdn Bhd managing director SM Thanneermalai opined that owners should be given a grace period of between six and nine years to claim their money from the AGD before the money is channelled to the government.

“After a six-year period and the money gets transferred to the Finance Ministry, it should be kept for another two or three more years, and if no claims are made, the money should be used for development expenditure.”

After that duration, it is only fair to assume that the money will never be claimed, ” he said.

However, Thanneermalai disagreed that the money should be used as a cash handout to the people or for operational expenditure as there were other government resources which are more suitable.

“If you want to use that money, it has to be used for productive purposes that can generate future income, ” he said.

Sunway University professor of economics Yeah Kim Leng said unclaimed monies could be explored as a possible source by the government if there was a need to meet short-term revenue gaps.

“The legal and regulatory requirements need to be ascertained, whether there are statutory limits as to how long the funds should be kept before it can be reverted to the government’s general fund for development or other purposes.

“The government can use it on a contingency basis and should the need arise, reimburse the claimants, ” he said, adding that the government could set aside a certain amount of money to meet actual claims.

Yeah said the idle money kept in the AGD was not productive as it was not circulated to generate economic activity.

“If the government is certain that the claimant cannot be found or is unlikely to make claims, then it can be safely re-allocated into the government’s balance sheet, ” said Yeah, adding that it was important that the money was earmarked for a specific purpose, such as allocation that goes to the needy, and not leave room for any spending to serve vested interests.

Malaysia Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors’ General Association president Datuk Ho Su Mong said although the unclaimed monies did not belong to the government, the government could come up with a law to tap such money for a certain period of time during economic difficulties or emergencies.

“However, the government has to ensure that a certain amount of the unclaimed monies will always be there for the people to claim, ” he said.

National Association of Human Resources Malaysia president Zarina Ismail argued that the money should be made available in perpetuity for claimants.

This is especially important, she said, for deceased claimants who still have next of kin or beneficiaries.

“I myself have RM1,000 unclaimed money and only recently realised this after 20 years, ” said Zarina.

Individual enquiries on unclaimed monies can be made through https://egumis.anm.gov.my/

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