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GOVT SUPPLIERS TO WAIT 6 MORE WEEKS FOR PAYMENTS

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MBABANE – Government suppliers and service providers have to wait six more weeks for their payments.


This was communicated by the Minister of Finance, Neal Rijkenberg, yesterday through a press statement dated February 5, 2020.
This extension follows that the minister had a fortnight ago informed this publication that the arrears would be settled early this month. He had acknowledged that there were technicalities that had coerced the ministry to delay the payments.


In the press statement, yesterday Rijkenberg said: “The initial stock of arrears was E4.2 billion as calculated at the end of March 2019. This figure has declined to E2.2 billion after the verification exercise, of which 50 per cent is for the capital programme and the balance is recurrent expenditure.”


He said the public had been expectant about the results of this exercise with the delays causing some frustrations and anxiety. Rijkenberg said in the process, the ministry had received several unconfirmed allegations that this verified E2.2 billion was still flawed with inaccuracies. This, Rijkenberg said, had therefore necessitated that further work be done to give assurance that the owed amounts were authentic and accurate. He said the Office of the Auditor General and the Office of Internal Audit were given more time to re-do the verification task which was expected to take an estimated six weeks.
“The ministry is therefore appealing for a further extension of time for the task and payment of suppliers and service providers,” he said.


Commitment


In explaining this decision, the minister recapped with the business society that the Ministry of Finance had made a commitment to pay all suppliers and service providers owed by government.


Given this commitment, he said, government undertook to acquire a loan in order to meet the commitment to pay. He said thereafter, the commitment was followed through with the process and approached AfriExim Bank for a E2 billion loan which was approved by Parliament in November 2019.


Consequently, he said, the ministry embarked on an exercise to update the inventory of arrears and verified their authenticity. Rijkenberg said the verification exercise included issuing an invitation to suppliers and service providers for submission of all unpaid invoices and certificates. 


“Once these were received, they were scrutinised and confirmed by the various ministries and departments, where in some cases, certain inconsistencies were identified.” He said a committee including officers from the Internal Audit Department, Ministry of Finance and Treasury was appointed to carry out this exercise.


Meanwhile, Deputy President of Federation of the Swazi Business Community (FESBC), Hezekiel Mabuza, said they were enthusiastic that government would pay them this month


The entrepreneur was optimistic that the official opening of Parliament would culminate in the fast tracking of the settlement of the arrears. Mabuza had anticipated that it would permit business proprietors to put the necessary pressure on government to settle its debts.

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