PSC worries about govt failing to pay SMMEs


The Eastern Cape, North West, Gauteng and Northern Cape remain serial defaulters when it comes to the payment of suppliers.

By March 2020, the Eastern Cape had 23 795 invoices, amounting to R2 481 062 875, which is still outstanding.

This was revealed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) on Wednesday when it launched its quarterly bulletin titled The Pulse of the Public Service.

The report is based on the final quarter of the 2019/2020 financial year, which is the period between January and March.

It also focused on the non-payment of invoices by state departments, service delivery during the Covid-19 lockdown and grievances brought before the organisation which investigates, monitors and evaluates how public service is administered.

Failure

PSC commissioner Michael Seloane said it was concerned about the continued failure by some departments to put systems in place to ensure suppliers received payments on time.

"Many small, medium and micro enterprises [SMMEs] – who were already struggling to keep businesses afloat – found their operations being put under further pressures due to the non-payment of invoices by the government."

Seloane added the public works and infrastructure and water and sanitation departments continued to default with 173 and 137 invoices, respectively, which were older than 30 days.

"Although the PSC has previously noted these departments' concerns that they were struggling with a historic debt and have since engaged National Treasury for assistance, the PSC cannot over-emphasise the impact this non-compliance has on the operations of SMMEs, especially in the current economic climate."

Seloane said the commission noted the government, like others across the globe, was under severe pressure because of the Covid-19 pandemic and welcomed efforts by the government to establish the Solidarity Fund which would assist with relief efforts during the crisis.

He added the pandemic had disrupted the provision of services which was a strain on the state's capacity as only essential workers and those working remotely being able to continue with their duties.

Seloane said the pandemic also challenged the behaviour of public servants, raising concerns over incidents of ill-treatment meted to citizens by law enforcement officials along with reports of maladministration, ill-treatment or lack of care of particular patients at some medical facilities and poor service delivery.

He added this demonstrated how ethics could be lost while interacting with citizens and would likely lead to costly legal action being taken against the government.

"The value of human dignity as well as the principle of high standards of professional ethics should at all times guide the behaviour of government officials when delivering government services."

Seloane said seven suspects were arrested during the lockdown in Tshwane who were found in possession of 91 SA Social Security Agency cards and R191 000 in cash.

He added the commission had handled 806 grievances, most of which were concluded in the 30 to 45 day timeframe, saying 72 were lodged during the previous financial year, while 196, which were pending, were at different stages of assessment, mediation or investigation.

Seloane said most of the grievances were about unfair treatment, including sexual harassment, irregular appointments, procurement, bribery, fraud and abuse of government equipment, with more than 400 being related to corruption.

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