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Gov’t has to strengthen its debt collection mechanisms

Publishing Date : 19 March, 2018

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The world over, Government agencies are engaging private debt collectors to go after millions owed by citizens, either as results of unpaid taxes and other financial obligations. In the light of government’s failure to collect what is being owed by the various individuals, perhaps it is necessary to consider the model.

As governments continue to face short-term and long-term financial burdens, improving collections can be an important part of the solution. Technology advancements and ever-evolving best practices offer significant opportunities for governments to recover outstanding receivables more effectively, and help mitigate economic challenges. In Botswana, government has not even given an indication of willingness to bring mitigating measures in the face of losing money.

As underscored by the recently released Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Report for the financial year 2015/2016, government ministries and departments are finding it hard to collect the revenue that government is being owed by various individuals. Engaging private debt collectors paid on commission bases would allow efficiency and even allow government officers to concentrate on the most immediate part of their jobs. By empowering private debt collectors, Government will be creating jobs and creating millionaires on the other hand. It is critical that government spreads money among citizens by outsourcing some of the functions.

The PAC report indicates that for the past three financial years 2014, 2015 and 2016, Government had arrears of revenue amounting to P458 million, P457 million and P460 million respectively, which is a substantial amount. The recently released budget by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development surely points to a need for more money to finance intended public works.

Perhaps, as recommended in some jurisdictions, there is need to create a centralised debt collection system. This could be creating any agency, dealing specifically the collection of government debts. Currently individual ministries and department collect debts on independent missions, and they are not doing a good job.

It is also a matter of concern the manner in which our fiscal systems are able to lose money so casually, like the overpayment of salaries, and mostly to individuals who have left or retired from the public service. We seriously need effective monitoring system. To lose P26 million illicitly through what would ordinarily be a careless manner, is unacceptable.

What makes it even worse is the fact that government is unable to recover the lost money. There is really a need to review the mechanisms deployed by government agencies on how best to avoid some of these mishaps which are costing taxpayer a lot of money. We are aware that some of the loose ends are deliberately orchestrated by those who knowingly defraud government. This should be handled separately by competent authorities like the Police, the DCEC and the DPP.

It is still inexplicable as to how the number of individuals and the value of salary overpayment has been rising over the last few years, despite having identified this anomaly earlier. From P2.2 million in 2013/14 financial years, the number has rose to P15.6 million, with some Ministries being perpetual culprits. We concur with the recommendations of the PAC that action should be taken against officers who neglect their duties and fail to take proper action to inform the Accountant General to stop payments where employees are no longer in service.

Government has inherent ability to collect data, something which should be an advantage to its debt collecting mission. We should be able to have legislative frameworks that would enables government to protect itself against rogue individuals who fail to return what they owe to government after benefiting from wrong transactions. The report also highlight another disturbing trends where public officers loses important documents, which eventually makes difficult for government to have trace of whatever they want to.

Some cases of government debts are still outstanding because there are no records available to help to process the cases. These should be seriously be re-looked into by government in a bid to improve efficiency. There is also a concern of inefficiencies that has been underscored by the report, across many ministries. Many ministries are unable to use the budget allocated to them because implementation is proving to be difficult due to poor planning.



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