Government owes some small businesses thousands of dollars and Leader of the Opposition Hon. Julian Fraser implored the Government to do something to make payments available to those owed.
While speaking in the Private Members section of the House of Assembly, Hon. Fraser said: “I cannot speak here this evening without reminding the Premier of the precarious state that the private sector, particularly small businesses, are in. One company, Madame Speaker showed me where they have accounts receivable with the Government from various departments of government for work that they have done in excess of $100,000.”
In explaining that there are many businesses that have invoices totalling thousands of dollars owed by the Government, the Leader of the Opposition said that businesses are finding it hard to stay open: “One person told me that they have five employees and $15,000 outstanding with Government and they are only keeping their employees because they know they have needs so I am appealing.”
$25M Overdraft Can Help?
During the questions and answers section in that sitting, the Leader of the Opposition asked Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith if government has been able to access the $25million line of credit from CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, which was approved by the House of Assembly in April. However he was told that Government did not access the funds.
In his Private Member appeal on business owner’s behalf Hon. Fraser referred to his question about the $25M line of credit and told the House that accessing the money and paying those owed would be wonderful: “I am appealing, so when I asked about the $25M overdraft privilege I asked for a reason. The reason being that I think that the sooner we get access to that facility the better it is for the Territory and the people of the Territory — “Please let’s make every effort to see that that particular aspect of the government gets straightened out where people can get their money.”
In his answer to Hon. Fraser’s question about the line of credit Premier explained that the bank is still completing its requisite internal procedures, in order to make the money available for use by the government
Bureaucracy Causes Holdup
The Leader of the Opposition also stated that sometimes business owners have difficulty collecting money from government because bureaucratic procedures adopted by some accounting officers cause delays.
This situation prompted Hon. Fraser to urge Ministers to ensure that accounting officers aren’t holding some invoices: “Minister if your accounting officers – I’ve been there, I know what I’m talking about, have these invoices that they don’t clear make sure somebody talks to your accounting officers. Whoever is collecting people’s invoices please pay them.”
“A lot of people believe that because they submit an invoice it’s being processed, that is far from the truth, and I am not talking about this particular government only. I am talking about – it has been a problem across the system for a long time particularly the last two months of the year,” Hon. Fraser said.
“If you’re doing business with government, and you do business with government particularly between November and December… depending on the size of those invoices; those $25, $10 invoices they add up, you don’t get paid for those at all, because when the year turns over they tell you something about the last financial year; and you got to go to Finance. And you got to keep prodding, and that cripples companies. Getting that cleared up could go a long way in making sure that people’s businesses remain viable,” Hon. Fraser added.