More than 1 200 business owners have already been assisted in receiving payments amounting to R357 million for government contracts thanks to the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) Payment Assistance Hotline.
Business owners can use the hotline to apply for help in being paid timeously for doing business with the government.
The initiative forms a part of efforts by the government to reduce red tape.
Since its launch in 2009 the hotline has received over 20 000 calls from aggrieved business owners looking to settle payment processes with various government departments and agencies.
Manthule Ngoasheng, the SMME Payment Assistance Hotline national project manager, says that so far at least 12 000 of these claims were legitimate non-payment claims.
The hotline includes email and fax application processes to make it easier for businesses to apply for help.
The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), which operates the hotline, is mandated to implement government’s small business strategy through providing business support to the sector.
Says Beverly Kgame, Seda’s corporate communications officer: “Complainants must have had a service or product that they have sold to the government in exchange for cash”.
Proof of services rendered to the state must also be included in the application form – which can be downloaded from Seda’s website (www.seda.org.za).
This is to help ensure that claims are valid.
Kgame says that this also helps minimize fraud and maladministration by businesses.
Through the hotline, payment processes can be sped up, allowing businesses to pay their staff, running costs and other expenses on time. The plan was to “ensure the persistence of job creation, save more jobs and grow the economy further”, says Kgame.
However, it was important to note that invoices cannot be processed if a job has not been completed unless otherwise agreed.
To lodge complaints and other queries relating to non-payment for services or products sold to government, businesses can call the hotline’s call centre between 6 am and 6 pm on weekdays.
At the time of writing, some 197 applications by small businesses for an amount totalling R180 million were still being processed.
Says Ngoashe: “The process has also enabled Seda to identify some of the areas where SMMEs need help, including administrative weaknesses, such as putting incorrect details on the invoice and wrong order numbers or invoice numbers.”
A campaign aimed at educating small enterprises on how the service works is in the pipeline and will focus on which documentation is required and the processes involved.
- Go to www.seda-smme.co.za for more information.