Unpaid bills owed to govt: $486m

Thursday, March 3, 2011

GOVERNMENT'S uncollected revenues from March last year run to more than $486 million, the Second Minister of Finance said at the meeting yesterday of the State Legislative Council's (LegCo) 7th session.

This has prompted His Majesty's Government to consider the issuance of new regulations that will facilitate collection of unpaid bills owed to the government.

"From March 31, 2010, the total amount owed by the public and private sector to the government is approximately $486.5 million," said Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Haji Abdul Rahman Haji Ibrahim in his speech yesterday.

The minister also included some of the more notable outstanding bills yesterday such as $230 million in unpaid utility bills, $163 million of which is for electricity and $67 million for unpaid water bills.

Unpaid phone bills recorded even prior to the privatisation of the telecoms department and the establishment of TelBru were estimated at $66 million.

He added that "House Assessment" was placed at $40 million and bills for the housing development was listed at $20.5 million $7 million is owed to the Land Department, while $8 million to the Brunei Industrial Development Authority.

Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman also underscored the responsibility of government agencies to collect government revenue accordingly and that the private sector and the general public to settle any arrears to the government.

"Government agencies that are tasked in collecting government revenue should strengthen the administration and management of their respective revenue collection," said the minister.

He also explained during the session that the money owed to the government could be utilised for infrastructure development.

"Imagine what could be carried out by our government if the $486.5 million was settled in full," he added.

The Minister of Finance II stressed that "roughly 4,000 homes could be built or 50 health centres, or 23 secondary schools, or 100 primary schools or 250km of highway and so on" if the amount was collected.

"As such the public and private sectors are urged to fulfill their responsibility and pay off whatever payments including those to the government that are outstanding in the time specified," said Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman.

"To bolster the accountability of government agencies in the collection of government revenue, the Ministry of Finance has introduced new regulations relating to accounts of government revenue," he said.

The new regulations would begin with the new financial year 2011/2012, he added.

"Each revenue collected by a government agency will be accounted for according to the respective ministry and department responsible for its collection, whereby the revenue collected is placed under five topics," he said.

"With the changes mentioned, the efficiency of revenue collected by each government agency can be measured clearly, with the steps to shore up the management of revenue collection to be carried out promptly and firmly," said the minister.

The Brunei Times