The Public Sector SMME Payment Assistance Hotline, which was set up in 2009 to help small, medium-sized and micro enterprises (SMMEs) resolve late payments, has taken up 7 109 late payment queries with public sector institutions since its inception, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said this week.
Of these, 5 155 have been successfully resolved resulting in payments worth R300-million to SMMEs.
But the Minister said that the number of unresolved cases remained too high, adding that SMMEs carry the heaviest burden as a result of late payments by government and big business.
“These late payments are distracting the owner from focusing on business growth opportunities. SMMEs cannot afford to go through a month without being paid for the services they rendered. Unlike big business, they cannot absorb the burden of not being paid on time, since their overheads and staff costs are largely dependent on the payment for service rendered, on a monthly basis,” Davies said.
He stated government had developed a number of policies and strategies to support the SMME sector, one of which is to leverage government procurement opportunities. However, the decentralisation of government procurement to individual State departments, provinces and local government has come with its own bureaucratic systems and some of these created a delay in paying government suppliers within the prescribed period of 30 days upon receipt of the invoice.
Department of Trade and Industry director-general Lionel October has further communicated with State departments to reinvigorate the call for timely payment to SMMEs by government institutions.
Meanwhile, marketing and business development manager for the hotline, Alfons Mauchle, said the service had not reached its full potential, as it was not adequately publicised.
“Many SMMEs do not know or have forgotten about the hotline. It is a powerful tool that can assist them in sorting out payments from customers,” he explained.
Mauchle added that the service reached over 780 government departments at local, provincial and national level.
The hotline, which is managed by the Small Enterprise Development Agency, can be reached on 0860 7663 729 or at www.acall.co.za