De Lille to crack the whip to ensure public works pays service providers on time

Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille has launched a "full-scale investigation" into the department's failure to pay some of its service providers within 30 days.

"As of the 22nd of July, the department had 2 085 invoices which have not been paid within the stipulated 30-day period," reads a statement from De Lille's spokesperson, Leigh-Anne Jansen.

Facilities Management accounts for around 80% of invoices older than 30 days, relating to the day-to-day, unplanned maintenance carried out on department buildings.

A Works Control System (WCS) is used for managing projects, dealing with major construction projects and includes both contractors and consultants. This, coupled with day-to-day maintenance constitutes 94% of the unpaid invoices that have gone beyond 30 days.

Other default areas pertain to telecommunications service providers and car rental agencies.

Several reasons, including processes being done outside of Supply Chain Management, issues with verification and certification of work done as well as late submissions of quotations, have been given for these delays.

"But it's simply not good enough," reads the statement.

"The minister believes this is unacceptable, particularly at a time when the economy needs strengthening and job creation is key."

Dire consequences

Government's failure to pay service providers on time has for long been a bugbear of the executive. It often has dire consequences, especially for small and medium enterprises. 

De Lille referred to the stern warning President Cyril Ramaphosa issued to departments in his February 2018 State of the Nation Address. 

He stressed that the "frustration that these entrepreneurs have to endure at the hands of the very state that is supposed to assist them is a matter of great concern" and that the failure "to pay suppliers within 30 days has a devastating impact on small and medium-sized businesses".

De Lille is in the process of implementing a contract management system and a consequence management system to keep track of payments. She warned that there will be consequences for individuals who fail to comply with what is a legal requirement.

"The president has called on us to serve. So, we need to serve for public good and, by extension, fix South Africa," De Lille said, according to the statement.

"The buck stops with us. We need to return to the Batho Pele principles."