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FG Recovers N53.2bn From Debtors, Says Finance Minister

The Federal Government has recovered over N53.2bn from debtors currently owing its Ministries, Departments and Agencies the sum of N5.2trn.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said this in Abuja at the formal launching of the Project Lighthouse Debt Analytics and Reporting platform.

The Ministry of Finance in a bid to optimize revenue had in 2017 initiated the ‘Project Lighthouse’ to mine data from multiple sources to support the implementation of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme.

The Minister said that data were mined from tax records from tax authorities; company ownership and directors from Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC); land records from land registries; Company directors’ information from National Insurance Commission; Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria; Non-structured data from online sources; Contractor payment records from GIFMIS and Remita.

Ahmed said through these data, the Ministry was able to identify and better profile individual and corporate taxpayers.

She said the data also assisted in identifying tax defaulters and potential beneficiaries of VAIDS.

Working in collaboration with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Ahmed explained further that the Ministry has been able to recover the sum of N53.5bn within the last 12 to 18 months.

The recovery, according to her, was achieved through the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System.

She said, “A perfunctory review of perceived significant leakages in Government led the FMFBNP to issue a directive on 26th September 2019, to all government agencies in a bid to aggregate all Government debts across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), with a view to having a single window on the credit profile of Government.

“Sequel to the issuance of the Finance Circular, the Ministry through the consolidation efforts of the project, has been able to aggregate monumental debts of approximately N5.2trn.

“These debts came to the spotlight from data aggregated from over 5,000 debtors across ten Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“Working in collaboration with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), we have been able to recover the sum of N53.5bn within the last 12-18 month, through the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) as a recovery touch point.

“However, to consolidate on the current effort of this project, a Debt Recovery Application has been built to be monitored by the new Debt Recovery Unit.”

She explained further that the Debt Recovery Unit will capitalize on the efforts made by the project consultants to provide the government with up-to-date records into its credit status by harmonizing debt records across all MDAs within the country, give debtors access to a platform to view and offset debt in a seamless and secured manner as well as strengthen the institutional framework for enforcement and management of the Federal Debt Recovery plan.

She noted that a fully functional website has been developed to effectively manage public perception around the government debt recovery efforts and revenue improvement strategies.

“In recognition of your status as a key stakeholder in our revenue generation drive, you have been invited to be part of this official launch of the Project Lighthouse Debt Analytics & Reporting Application.

“It is worth noting that the usefulness of this platform for our revenue generation effort will be dependent on your cooperation and commitment in providing quality and relevant debt-related information to populate the platform. It is also our belief that your organization stand to benefit immensely from the intelligence that Project Lighthouse will be producing.

“To this end, I want to use the opportunity to urge all FGOEs and MDAs to update their list of debtors on a month-on-month basis against the Project Lighthouse debt recovery portfolio. This also encompasses the development of an institutional framework for enforcement, recovery and management of the fiscal environment,” she added.

The Minister said while the government recognizes that bringing up the issue of tax will automatically bring up the issue of service delivery and good governance, such dialogue is vital because it is an important part of the social contract that any taxpayer has the right to demand.

She added that more efficient revenue mobilization and blocking leakages would provide more funds to deliver on the needs of Nigeria.

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