State seeks to recover 285bn/- from 120,000 defaulters
LOAN defaulters and employers who have been uncooperative to the Higher Education Students’ Loans Board (HESLB) should stay warned as the institution kick-starts today, a nationwide manhunt aimed at netting about 120,000 defaulters owing debts amounting to 285bn/-.
The Executive Director of HESLB, Mr Abdul-Razaq Badru, would not reveal the strategies that the board would deploy to trace the defaulters, but warned employers on consequences of failing to cooperate.
“Employers are obliged to submit to the board the details of current and new employees because the deduction of salaries from the loan beneficiaries is statutory just like PAYE (Pay As You Earn) taxes,” Mr Badru told the ‘Daily News’ ina telephone interview yesterday, adding: “Failing to cooperate with the board is a crime and in some cases we have dragged a number of employers to court and some of them had to pay penalties.”
The HESLB boss noted further that the institution would intensify routine inspections at work places to trace all beneficiaries. “We also plan to conduct an outreach programme to provide public awareness campaigns to employers, employees and the general public on the importance of repaying the loans.
The board aims at creating a sustainable revolving fund to provide loans to new students,” he explained. For those in the informal sector, Mr Badru explained that the HESLB would soon enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to trace business owners who benefited from the loans.
“Through the MoU, the TRA will give us with details of business owners and this will enable us trace defaulters who are not in formal employment. The aim is to expand the network of sources where we can access information,” he explained.
According to Mr Badru, the board is also holding discussions with pension funds which he said would enable the board track details of higher education loan beneficiaries. The official was nonetheless glad that some employers and beneficiaries had been turning up voluntarily and meeting their refund obligations.
“Since we launched the inspections, annual collections had increased from 32bn/- to 116bn/- as of 2016,” he explained. He showered praises on the President’s Office (Public Service Management) for cooperating with the loans board in collecting and remitting the statutory deductions from employees in the public sector, calling other employers to act as an agent of the board.
Speaking at a news conference last week, Mr Badru ‘declared a war’ on the defaulters, explaining that the board planned to start a countrywide campaign starting today. The loans date back to the 1994/1995 academic year, explaining that the inspections are aimed at establishing whether the payroll by employers contain names of the loan beneficiaries.