Government Agencies Owe $320m to SA Businesses

February 9, 2018

Radio Broadcast

 

John Darley, MLC, Advance SA Party (5AA 9.47-9.56) Government agencies owe $320m to SA businesses

 

(Byner: When you get an Emergency Services Levy bill or a council bill … or any other government charges … you fall foul of the date due, they’re over you and you pay a late fee and you might even pay a penalty as well … SA Government’s accounts which are outstanding for more than 90 days – and this is information that I’ve got from John Darley who … used to be a Valuer-General … not only is there money owed but there is an attitude within Treasury … “We will pay when we’re ready,” unquote. Now has this been challenged by the Government … we have over 90 days, $320m … money owed to business – unpaid accounts cause significant problems for business’ cash flow. There are currently two Government agencies which are exempt from paying their accounts within 30 days … the Central Adelaide and Country Health SA Local Health Networks – why are they so special? Questions should be asked as to why these agencies are exempt from the 30 day timeframe which other agencies have to adhere to … agency CEOs are responsible to a Minister or Premier, outstanding accounts which do not meet key performance indicators should be reported to the Minister/Premier along with reasons for the delay in payment … these Independents, they’re on the ball, John Darley … tell us what you did?) … I spoke to Business SA about whether they’d had any complaints or concerns about non-payment of accounts after 30 days … they’ve outlined a whole list of things and they did indicate that, sure, there’s interest that can be paid if the account is outstanding but a lot of the supplies of goods and services to the Government are reluctant to claim that because of the attitude of some Government agencies who say … ‘You won’t get anymore tenders so we won’t deal with you anymore’ … that is just irresponsible and cannot continue. (Byner: Does that happen?) Apparently it does … the agencies that are exempted from this payment of bills within 30 days there is absolutely no reason on earth why anyone should be exempted from that … when the Government secures goods and services they are responsible … that responsibility is delegated to, or the authority is delegated from the Premier to the Minister to the CEO of the department … the CEO delegates to the responsible offices … interest should be paid but why should the taxpayer have to pay the interest? … the key performance indicators that should be included in the review of CEOs performance should include this report on unpaid accounts, outstanding more than 90 days … the CEO should be required to report to the Minister every month, by exception on how many accounts of that nature are outstanding … if that continues there should be a report made on the CEOs performance arrangements whereby every year the performance of the CEOs is reviewed by the Minister and the Premier … if a CEO continues to report that there are outstanding accounts for no apparent reason … something should be done about that … we could go one stage further and say if the CEO is reluctant to have his department follow up on payment of these accounts … part of the interest should be paid by him. (Byner: Look, that’s all very nice … you’d have trouble changing an agreement or KPIs with those already signed … there’s something in the culture of these senior public servants that they give themselves permission to withhold funds owing to businesses and service providers; where is this coming from?) Absolutely … you have CEOs who are on salaries of up to $600,000 a year … (Byner: not every public servant is a dud, there are some great people in that organisation right across the sector so what’s happened here?)… there’s just a reluctance to carry out the responsibilities they have … there has to be a penalty in there for a CEO who continually refuses to accept the responsibility for paying these accounts. (Byner: $330m outstanding after 90 days, John, that is a very significant amount of money out of the private economy, this is really bad.) And that could be particularly bad for … small business … they’re relying on cash flow and if their cash flow is tied up with unpaid bills from the Government their business could be in doubt … (Byner: does anybody care about this?) Well there are some departments where they don’t care too much about anything. (Byner: Who are they?) Well Primary Industries would be one, Department of Transport would be another … (Byner: you’re telling me they owe a significant amount of money and they don’t care that they do?) … I’m talking about general responsibilities for a whole range of things … (Byner: on this matter of owing money and not paying it this is very bad for the people of SA and it’s hypocritical … if you owe them they’re all over you …) the way it works at the moment, if the Government pays interest on unpaid accounts who’s paying that? The taxpayer … (Byner: what do we do about this? … the public would be concerned … the businesses would be concerned. I was contacted by a small business person yesterday … he’s got a few shops and he’s owed quite a bit of money, in the tens of thousands and he said ‘I’m not going to go and get a bridging loan because they’re not paying me, I just wont’ deal with them next time’ so he’ll find other means, not everybody can do that) … I’m going to make an appointment to speak to the next Premier, whoever’s the Premier after the 17th of March. The Premier of the day is responsible for reviewing the performance of CEO and I’m going to talk to the Premier about … how do we make sure that that authority that’s delegated CEOs is formally carried out in the most effective manner. (Byner: Do you believe there is an implied instruction … which has been given to some public servants to pay slowly?) Well I would hope not but the other day when this matter was discussed … that was suggested. (Byner: … this is a serious matter … I’m not asking the Government to do anything that is just somebody’s opinion or party political, they’ve gone out and they’ve got goods or services or both from providers, given in good faith and they’re not paying on time, do you reckon that’s kosher?)

 

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