Early referral of debt cases vital, says AGC

March 10 2011

By : Quratul Ain Bandial, The Brunei Times

Lawyers attend the opening of the Legal year 2011. Picture: BT/ Yusri Adanan

EARLY referral of cases of outstanding debt by relevant departments is vital in collecting millions of dollars in unpaid debt owed to government in municipal fees, income tax and other bills, said the Attorney General yesterday.

At the opening of the Legal Year 2011, Datin Paduka Hjh Hayati POKSDSP Hj Salleh said that the Civil Division of the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) has received 3,500 cases of outstanding debt owed to the government which they are looking at outsourcing to private law firms for legal action. "I have to emphasise that legal action is a last and unpleasant resort and due diligence by the respective departments not to allow debts to accumulate and the responsibility of the public to pay their dues is crucial," she said during her opening address at the Supreme Court Building.

She stated that the AGC has written to all private law firms concerned to submit proposals for legal recourse in collection of unpaid debt owed to the government. "We have received some and will consider them before submitting them for approval by the relevant authorities," she said.

Speaking to The Brunei Times on the sidelines of the event, Datin Hjh Hayati said that most of the outstanding debt is municipal fees such as income tax owed by companies.

"In every act there are provisions, such as your license can be revoked (if you don't pay)... Of course the important issue is due diligence. What we find is that sometimes after 5 or 10 years the debt accumulates then they refer (the case) to us. So I think they need to reinforce their resources - sometimes that's the problem," she said.

In a previous report, the AGC said that outstanding debt also includes unpaid electricity and water bills and housing fees.

"We are actually quite flexible (when it comes to repaying debt), but strictly speaking, the law states that if you don't pay, you can be evicted from the house. But we don't want to do that. The department does not want to do that but that is the policy," she said. "The public should not take advantage (of the situation). It's their responsibility with all the subsidies and all the help the government gives (to pay)." The Brunei Times