Uche Usim, Abuja
Following the inauguration of the Steering Committee for “Project Lighthouse” in Abuja at the weekend by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has pledged its full cooperation to ensure the project succeeds on all fronts.
Project Lighthouse is an initiative which entails using advanced data mining and analytics techniques to identify tax defaulters, establish their tax liabilities and send notifications to appropriate authorities for necessary action.
Acting Director General of SEC, Ms. Mary Uduk who stated this weekend in Abuja, also commended the Minister on the initiative.
Uduk emphasized the need for collaboration among relevant agencies to assist the government in its revenue generation adding that Project Light House is a positive step in that direction.
“It is clear that data and information will certainly aid the generation of more revenue and in the long run all agencies will be better for it as there will be more resources for government to carry out development
“Data gathering and sharing is the way to go especially in this digital age, as when there is available data, information can be shared and that will increase compliance level as well as improve revenue generation”
The Acting DG said low revenue generation is a source of worry as whey government does not meet its revenue generation targets, it will be difficult to provide critical infrastructure that will encourage investment in the country.
She therefore pledged the full co-operation of the SEC to ensure that relevant data are made available when needed by the committee.
In her address, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said one of the key economic policy objectives of the current administration, as contained in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, is improving overall Federal Government revenues by targeting and increasing revenues fron non-oil revenue sources.
She said also aims, among other goals, to increase the tax base by drastically increasing the Company Income Tax and Value Added Tax compliance, bringing additional tax payers into the tax net, and increase Tax to GDP ratio from the current 6 percent to 15 per cent by the year 2020.
Ahmed said that in the last few months, major steps have been taken to address the Nation’s chronic revenue challenges among which is Strategic Revenue Growth Initiatives, SRGI, formulating policies and fiscal matters, preparing annual estimates of revenue and expenditure for the Federal Government among others.
According to Ahmed, “ Despite the fact that we live in a technology and data-centric world, we have not had a culture of using data and information to guide the formulation, implementation and impact assessment of our initiatives and policies
“This modus operandi presents a number of challenges. Firstly our policies are not usually empirically based, secondly, we are not able to effectively track implementation and impact of these policies and thirdly, we lack data to help guide the revision or optimization of these policies.
She said in response to the aforementioned challenges, the Federal Ministry of Finance initiated Project Lighthouse whose first phase involved mining of data from multiple sources to support the implementation of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
“Following the ratification of Project Lighthouse at the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday May 9th, 2019, the Ministry of Finance is entering into a post-VAIDS or phase 2 of the project. However, Project Lighthouse is being positioned as a single source of truth for revenue and tax related intelligence that will support the Ministry, its agencies, revenue agencies, tax authorities and other stakeholders to be better positioned to address the revenue challenges we are facing” she said.
Ahmed said in this phase, Lighthouse will be using Big Data Analytics, data sciences and related technologies to gather and analyze financial data and revenue related data from multiple but related sources, while also using sophisticated data analysis tools to connect the dots between the different data sets.
All these she said were aimed at supporting the ministry to deliver on its statutory mandate, track the implementation of SRGI and other revenue initiatives, measure the impact of the ministry’s policies, programmes and initiatives, collect, analyze and share revenue related intelligence with its agencies and stakeholders, identify opportunities for new revenue streams across the public finance ecosystem as well as optimize existing revenue streams especially non-oil revenue.