The Project Lighthouse Programme of the Federal Government, managed by the Federal Ministry of Finance, has successfully recovered N57 billion from the aggregated total debt of about N5.2 trillion owed by 10 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
This achievement was made possible through the consolidation efforts of the Debt Analytics and Reporting Application as a result of the concerted efforts of stakeholders and the Federal Government.
Aisha Omar, the Director of Special Projects at the Federal Ministry of Finance, disclosed this on Tuesday in Gombe, Gombe State, during a one-day sensitization programme for the North-East Geopolitical Zone on the Federal Government’s debt recovery drive through the Project Lighthouse Programme.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by Stephen Kilebi, Director (Press & Public Relations) at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Omar mentioned that these debts came to light from data aggregated from over 5,000+ debtors across 10 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), and the aggregation process is still ongoing.
According to Omar, the Project Lighthouse initiative was designed to help solve the intractable and perennial problem of debt recovery by utilising big data analytics technology.
She emphasised that the core focus of Project Lighthouse is to leverage big data technology to help block revenue loopholes, identify new revenue opportunities, optimise existing revenue streams, especially non-oil revenue, and improve fiscal transparency.
The Director explained that the debts included debt liabilities to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), refunds to the Government by companies that failed to deliver on projects for which payment had been effected, and unpaid credit facilities granted to both corporate entities and individuals by the Bank of Industry (BOI) and Bank of Agriculture (BOA). Others included judgment debt in favour of the Government and debts owed to the Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) by insurance companies, among others.
She disclosed that data from the Project Lighthouse Programme revealed that many companies and individuals who owed government agencies and refused to honour their obligations were still being paid, especially through government platforms such as GIFMIS and Treasury Single Account (TSA), due to a lack of visibility over such transactions.
The Director explained that the Ministry had taken steps to address major revenue loopholes, some of which included issuing a Ministerial directive on September 26, 2019, to all MDAs to aggregate all government debts across the Public Finance space to have a single window on the credit profile of the Federal Government.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC)’s regulatory approval on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, extended the functionalities of the debt recovery capability of the Lighthouse Project Programme.
She added that the above measures would enable the Federal Ministry of Finance to fully automate the debt recovery process and make settlements of debts as seamless as possible.
She solicited the participants’ cooperation and commitment in providing quality and relevant information (debt-related data) to populate the platform, adding that she was counting on their continuous support to ensure the full realisation of the goals and aspirations of the laudable project.
Omar assured the participants that “it is her firm belief that together we can dramatically change our revenue story by fully and innovatively exploiting the great power of Big Data Analytics, Data Science, and related technologies”.
She urged all stakeholders to do their best to ensure the successful implementation of the initiative, stating that the essence of the workshop was to train officers on how to go about debt recovery and explaining that the initiative was an important aspect of government recovery processes.
She disclosed that debt recovery would reduce the country’s indebtedness, track day-to-day revenue generation, get a true profile of our debt recovery portfolio, and block revenue leakages and loopholes, adding that the Project Lighthouse initiative has come with this recovery process.
Omar noted that the organisations stood to benefit immensely from the intelligence generated from the Project Lighthouse Programme.
Earlier, the Project consultant, Dr. Abraham Atteh, stated that the Project Lighthouse initiative was all about debt recovery through the use of technology.
He said it was all about tracking, retrieving, and recovering government debts, adding that with the initiative, every entity that does business with the government would be able to pay debts owed to the government.
He noted that systems would be put in place to block loopholes created by these entities and explained that the government was putting every technology in place to recover its debts owed by both private and corporate entities.
During the Vote of Thanks, the Deputy Director of the Presidential Initiative On Continuous Audit (PICA) at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Johnson Oludare, said that with the Project Lighthouse Initiative, the Ministry believes “Nigeria will work again”.
He added that engagement should not stop at the workshop but should be a continuous effort until a better Nigeria is achieved. He stated that all the participants were role players and were therefore encouraged to work harder until the debt recovery drive via the initiative was achieved.
Mr Oludare, who reiterated that the workshop was very educational and interactive, thanked the participants on behalf of the Permanent Secretaries of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr Aliyu Ahmed and Mr. Okokon Udo.
The North-East Zonal Sensitization Programme was well attended by representatives from government agencies, institutions, and hospitals, among others.
It could be recalled that the Ministry had organised a similar sensitization programme on the Project Lighthouse Programme in the South-West, North-West, South-South, and North-Central Geopolitical Zones of the country.
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