23 September 2009 | Allie Anderson
South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has launched a national hotline to help small suppliers secure overdue government payment.
The "payment assistance hotline" will provide a single point of contact between vendors and the government to facilitate payment within 30 days of delivery of goods or services.
When a supplier contacts the hotline, an agent will gather all relevant information and liaise with the finance division of the government department to push payment forward.
As well as fast-tracking outstanding bills, the hotline will help monitor the problem of late and non-payment by government institutions and track progress on tackling the problem.
In some cases suppliers have had to wait more than 90 days for payment despite public bodies being required to settle invoices within 30 days, DTI minister Rob Davies said at the hotline's launch in Pretoria this week.
He added that the issue of late or non-payment of suppliers had been high on the government's agenda for some time.
SMEs contribute to more than 40 per cent of South Africa's gross domestic product. The hotline reflects the government's commitment to developing and supporting small businesses, the DTI said.