$135m remains unclaimed with courts, ministries

Bulk of monies held by MinLaw, with owners mostly having forgotten them

UNCOLLECTED pensions, immigration deposits and inheritance from relatives. These are just some types of unclaimed money left in a growing pile held by government agencies.

The total sum sitting in ministries and courts alone rose to $134.5 million as at the end of last year - 13 per cent more than in 2013, and almost double the figure in 2012.

The sum - revealed to The Straits Times by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) - excludes unclaimed money held by statutory boards.

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, for instance, said it was holding about $35 million as at last December.

The sum consisted primarily of tax refunds arising from amended tax assessments of foreign taxpayers who have left Singapore.

Unlike statutory boards, courts and ministries report their unclaimed figures to MOF.

The monies are mostly forgotten by their owners, with the bulk of them - about $122.8 million at the end of last year - held by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) on behalf of beneficiaries of deceased estates, pawnbrokers and creditors of insolvent estates.

"All government agencies, including statutory boards, are required to make all reasonable efforts to return monies to the rightful owners promptly," an MOF spokesman told The Straits Times.

"These efforts include sending notification and reminder letters to the owners."

MOF also helps to maintain an online government database of claimants - www.unclaimed

monies.gov.sg - which allows members of the public to run searches on the names of people and companies to check if they have outstanding claims.

The MOF spokesman said the growth in the total sum held was due to a "reclassification (under MinLaw) of about $66 million as unclaimed monies after repeated unsuccessful attempts to trace the whereabouts of the beneficiaries".

This was after MinLaw successfully paid out $33.2 million in the past year.

"Although general deposits are usually credited to the Government's Consolidated Fund after six years, all valid claims will be repaid, regardless of where the monies are held or from when these claims date back to," said the MOF spokesman.

Other unclaimed monies held by ministries include about $10.7 million in immigration deposits and $138,000 in uncollected pensions under MOF.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) held slightly more than $600,000 at the end of last year, mainly in levy bonds and factory registration fees.

A spokesman said that despite reminder letters and published information, "many claimants have remained uncontactable".

It may be that some claimants have overlooked or forgotten what is owed to them, especially if these were deposits made years before.

Some of the entries listed on the online database of claimants date back to the 1980s.

Local vehicle servicing company Chin Nam Hup Kee Motor Works is owed an unknown sum classified as a "factory registration fee" under MOM.

Its long-time manager, Mr Alvin Tng, told The Straits Times that he was surprised to learn that his company had money it could claim.

"This is the first time I am hearing about this. I have been a manager here for about 10 years, and we have not received any notification," he said.

"I suspect it is a small amount, perhaps under $100, but even then, of course, I will go and claim it, now that I know."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg