By Emelia Naa Ayeley Aryee/Freelance Journalist
The Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI), a Free Enterprise Policy Think Tank, has produced a study report titled “Ending Family Poverty: Unlocking the Funds of a Deceased Relative by Beneficiaries and Next of Kin.”
The report brings to the fore the various administrative barriers and red tape that have bedeviled the efforts of Next of Kin (NoK) and beneficiaries to access funds of their deceased relatives from the bank, insurance, and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
On Monday, November 27, 2023, ILAPI’s high-level policy dialogue aimed at fighting poverty and improving human dignity brought together stakeholders in the banking, legal, and insurance sectors, as well as traditional authorities to discuss the various issues, and how best to work together in removing the barriers.
Present at the dialogue were the MP for Madina, Lawyer Francis-Xavier Sosu; Lawyer Ebenezer Isaac Teye Nubuor of Voxtua Legal Services; Ms. Salomey Braimah, the Deputy Registrar of Births and Deaths Registry; Mr. John Kojo Boateng, General Manager of Benefits, SSNIT; representatives from Access Bank, and other institutions.
In an address, the Executive Director of ILAPI, Mr. Peter Bismark Kwofie, noted that fighting poverty is now an endless one from one government’s programme to another, from private initiatives to another, and from think tank solutions to another. He explained that as a different government anti-poverty programmes is put in place at one point, other challenges surface to retrogress the entire efforts.
Mr. Kwofie revealed that one of such biggest causes of the unending poverty cycle is the red tape and administrative barriers inherently part of Ghana’s laws, which are often not discussed as primary channels, pushing many more Ghanaians into poverty.
“I must admit that I am alarmed at how poverty is smiling at us and the urgent warnings of more people becoming poorer more than ever before because of red tapes and administrative barriers,” he admonished.
The ILAPI Executive Director explained red tape as the rules and conscious procedures of an administrative system that affect people who are employed or charged to carry them out; while administrative bottlenecks often result from the rules and related procedures of specific action to be taken that affect end users.
He reckoned that many Ghanaians are dying intestate, in road accidents, in rivers, burnt in infernos, and others in some rare circumstances. In the past 10 years in Ghana, he stated, 72 persons out of every 100,000 population have suffered bodied injuries; 8 out of the same population died through road traffic accidents, and hospitals such as 37 Military and the police had to conduct mass burial, according to records.
These individuals, he said might have bank accounts and insurance policies that their next of kin might never know about. When this happens their money with the banks is transferred to be kept forever by the Bank of Ghana if no family member goes to claim the money after 5 years. In the case of SSNIT and Insurance, they keep the unclaimed money to themselves forever.
However, Peter Bismark Kwofie believes that family poverty cannot be broken if this trend of institutions keeping money belonging to deceased persons continues instead of giving it to the family members who are the dependents.
Thus, he charged the various institutions to take the necessary steps needed to release funds of deceased persons to their families through the Next of Kin.
“In the financial sector, it is incumbent on the banks, insurance companies, and SSNIT to find out whether their accountholders, clients or customers are deceased or missing in the case that the account becomes dormant. This is why all insurance policyholders, bank account holders, and pension schemes have their Next of Kin, serving as the point of contact.”
“The Bank of Ghana’s Policy through the Banks and Specialized Deposit-Taking Institution Act 930 (2016) demands that Banks must contact the next of kin of the account holder to find out the whereabouts of the account holder when the account is dormant for 3 years,” he said.
Peter Bismark also decried the cost, and web of information required to unlock the funds of the deceased. He disclosed that this could take months and years. The acquisition of documents to secure other documents to access the funds comes with challenges including, identity crises. In most cases, the beneficiaries, nominees, or next of kin could die in the process of accessing the funds and the quest may never be realised.
He called on banks, insurance companies, and SSNIT to restructure their account opening forms, policy subscription forms, and pension documents to avoid identity challenges; while calling on the Bank of Ghana to, as a matter of policy, find ways to identify families of the deceased bank accountholders to receive their funds kept for the past 10 years.
“We also expect the Bank of Ghana to intensify proper supervision and ensure banks comply with the dormant account sections in the Banks and Specialized Deposit-Institution Act, 2016 (Act 930). The Insurance companies and SSNIT should also simplify the processes and equally identify beneficiaries, next of kin, and families to access the funds kept with them in the past 10 years,” he advocated.
The ILAPI Executive Director also called on all Ghanaians to start amending their bank accounts, insurance, and pension details, especially on the information of beneficiaries, nominees, and next of kin to prevent the loss of funds when one is no more.