Vanuatu Government Reassures Opposition Over Government Revenue Debt

Leader of Opposition: Ministry of Finance has made a call to all revenue agencies to collect the outstanding money owed to the government

By Fern Napwatt

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 29, 2017) – The Salwai led government is implementing ways to recover the revenue debt of Vt4 billion [US$38M].

The government Public Relations Officer, Mr Hilaire Bule said that coalition government led by Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has made a decision through the Council of Ministers (COM) to tackle the revenue debt.

He stated this following a statement released by the Office of the Leader of Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau, who voiced his concern on the uncollected outstanding revenue of Vt4 billion owed by tax payers to the government.

According to the Opposition press statement, the Leader of Opposition reiterated that the minister responsible of the Ministry of Finance, Mr Gaeton Pikioune has made a call to all revenue agencies to collect the outstanding money owed to the government.

“The Minister has confirmed through the media about the outstanding revenue that totals up to Vt4 billion [US$38M] - the Opposition understands that when the current Legislature took up office, the outstanding was at Vt3 billion [US$28.5M] and now under his watch for the last 18 months the outstanding has reached an extra Vt1 billion [US$9.5],” the Opposition said.

But the Deputy Director of Customs and Inland Revenue, Mr Collins Gesa clarified that of the Vt4 billion [US$38M], there is an outstanding of VAT backdated to the year 1998.

“Ideally, the outstanding of VAT backdated to 1998 presents 37% of the amount which is roughly about Vt1.4 billion [US$13.3] and this is from SOE’s (State Owned Enterprises) that also refers to Provinces and Municipalities,” he said.

“So the remaining Vt3.6 billion [US$34M] are fees owed by private owned enterprises-there is a breakdown of the total amount after an audit was done and it shows that it’s mostly made up of Penalties or Interest Charges.”

Mr Gesa explained that it was up to the discretion of the Director responsible or the Minister to write off a penalty not met by a person of interest according to CAP 247 within a period of time.

“It will be rigorous procedure to go through to collect all the outstanding but recently COM has made a decision to manage the debt,” he said.

Mr Hilaire Bule confirmed that the government is working on mechanisms in place to recover the Vt4 billion and has asked the Leader of Opposition to let the government do its job by carrying out its policies after Mr Kalsakau labeled the Minister responsible as incompetent and incapable.

Leader of Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau, had in fact called for the resignation of the Minister of Finance.

Minister Gaeton Pikioune was quoted in his statement saying “that it is not only this sector but the Government, through the Revenue Review Committee, should look at other revenue avenues to ensure they are explored to expand the government taxation base”.

“The outstanding monies owed to the Vanuatu Government must be collected while businesses and anyone not complying or evading taxes must be made to pay their outstanding taxes,” he said.

The Opposition statement reported that the Department of Customs and Inland Revenue in particular are responsible to collect most of the governments revenue- Import Duty, Excise, VAT, Licenses, permits, turnover taxes and other minor fees.

Mr Kalsakau concluded that the Opposition wants to see action and the people of Vanuatu want to see service delivery though there are many teachers and nurses out there who are not yet on the government payroll and many vacancies within various government departments including the Police Force that cannot be recruited due to insufficient budget.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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