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Zainab Ahmed: FG has recovered N53bn out of N5.2trn debt from MDAs

  Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget, and national planning, says the federal government has recovered N53.5 billion out of N5.2 tril...

 


Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget, and national planning, says the federal government has recovered N53.5 billion out of N5.2 trillion owed by its ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs).

 

Ahmed disclosed this on Monday at the formal launch of Project Lighthouse Debt Analytics and Reporting Platform in Abuja.

 

She said the project entails using advanced data mining and analytics techniques to identify tax defaulters, establish their tax liabilities and send notifications to appropriate authorities for necessary actions.

 

The minister added that the ministry was leveraging a multi-layer data mining effort to recover huge debts owed to the federal government by various MDAs.

 

Through the efforts of the project, she said, the government had been able to aggregate huge debts of approximately N5.2 trillion owed by MDAs, out of which N53.5 billion had been recovered in the last 12 to18 months.

 

According to Ahmed, the figures came up from data aggregated from over 5,000 debtors across 10 MDAs.

 

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


“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.

 

“The debt recovery unit will capitalise on the effort made by the project consultants to provide the government with up-to-date records of its credit status.

 

“By harmonising 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.”

 

The minister further urged all federal government-owned enterprises (FGOEs) and MDAs to update their list of debtors on a month-on-month basis in line with the project’s debt recovery portfolio.

 

This would also encompass the development of an institutional framework for enforcement, recovery, and management of the fiscal environment, Ahmed said.

 

She noted that one of the key economic policy objectives of the current administration, as contained in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), was improving overall government revenues by targeting and increasing revenues from non-oil sources.

 

“ERGP also aims, among other goals, to increase the tax base by drastically increasing the company income tax (CIT) and value-added tax (VAT) compliance, bringing additional taxpayers into the tax net, and increasing tax to GDP ratio,” she said.

 

The minister, however, regretted that despite being in technology and data-centric world, Nigeria had no culture of using data and information to guide the formulation, implementation, and impact assessment of its initiatives and policies.


“This modus operandi presents a number of challenges, firstly, our policies are not usually empirically based. Second, we are not able to effectively track the implementation and impact of these policies, initiatives, programmes, and mandates. Third, we lack data to help guide the revision or optimization of these policies,” he said.

 

“In response to the aforementioned challenges, the Federal Ministry of Finance initiated Project Lighthouse. In July 2017, during the first phase of Project Lighthouse, data was mined from multiple sources to support the implementation of the voluntary assets and income declaration scheme (VAIDS).


“All these data helped us to identify and better profile individuals and corporate taxpayers, it also helped to identify tax defaulters and potential beneficiaries of VAIDS.

 

Last year, the federal government recovered the N49.7 billion debt owed to it by contractors through the project.

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