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Debt Collection & Pension Safety under scrutiny    
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By : Azlan Othman, BruDirect.com

Bandar Seri Begawan - Ways to collect the staggering amount of unpaid bills, the safety of village leaders who distribute pension to recipients and the measures to tackle smuggling were highlighted yesterday at the Legislative Council meeting.

Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Ibrahim, highlighted several ways the government uses to collect bills owed by the public and private sectors.

He said the measures include establishing a special committee to tackle the unpaid bills, setting up a credit control section at the Treasury Department to implement unpaid bills collection, sending letters to or discussing the matter with debtors, providing report to AG Chambers for legal action, giving flexibility to pay dues in instalments, deduction through salaries and re-arrears, terminating the service by not extending permit or licence and limiting the operation of debtor, fine-tuning management division and training officers at revenue collection, as well as payment online through banks and implementing e-payment gateway by Treasury Department.

From November 24, 2009, utility bill payments can be made through banks.

He urged village chiefs to play a role in informing residents to settle their dues as the revenue collection could enhance the quality of services and improve the business environment.

On smuggling of cigarettes into Brunei and subsidised fuel out of the country, the minister said many efforts have been made to tackle the problems such as taking legal action and joint operations which are not only confined to control posts or rivers but also include "mouse trails".

For effective enforcement, several strategies will be implemented in due course. "I would not be able to share the strategies as this is to ensure the effectiveness of the strategies once they are implemented," YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Ibrahim said.

Between 2008-2010, 241 arrests were made for fuel smuggling while for cigarette smuggling, the number of arrests jumped from six arrests on average a nfonth to 26-46 arrests a month.

The customs and other relevant agencies are also reviewing the legal provisions on smuggling to make the preventive action more effective, the Minister said.

Meanwhile, YB Dato Paduka Awg Hj Puasa bin Orang Kaya Seri Pahlawan Tudin voiced concern over the safety of village leaders who distribute the pension to village residents monthly.

Village leaders face many risks as they have to carry hundreds of thousands of dollars. With the possibility of robbery, he hoped that the relevant parties find a more practical way of distributing the pension.

Pensioners also urged the government to pay their pension on the same day that public servants receive their salaries.

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Ibrahim said this matter was taken note of and analysed fairly.

In response to the security of village leaders, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah said this matter had been discussed several times at the Legislative Council.

He said village leaders need to ask the police to escort them. However, this depends on the ability of the force.

Minister of Home Affairs, YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said other ways have been suggested by the public such as crediting the pension into bank accounts just like for tithe recipients.

"This is good but it also means that there is no interaction and close tie between village leaders and residents." -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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