Government agencies that hold out on paying suppliers or impose lengthy waiting times on invoices to be processed will not be spared the rod under a fresh investigation into shonky payment practices by Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell.
The probe will also be checking to see if key ‘30 days to pay’ procurement reforms imposed across the whole of government federally and in New South are having the desired effect of accelerating receivables ledgers.
It’s a highly public approach that Carnell makes no apologies for applying as the rather awkwardly named ASBFEO sets about compiling a comprehensive picture of what’s really happening around payment to small businesses.
“What the inquiry is about is getting to the bottom of what’s really happening. Who are the major offenders? Are there people doing good stuff as well, to give people accolades –and then look at what the solutions might be,” Carnell told The Mandarin.
The takeaway for agencies, state and federal, is that any evidence provided to the inquiry on the 30 days to pay policy is will be be cross-checked with small businesses at the other end.
“Well, they tell us it’s tracking really well,” Carnell said of the 30 day policy.
“So that’s why we’re having an inquiry, to get feedback from the perspective of small businesses – is it tracking as well as government tells us it is.
An added incentive for government payers to quickly get their act together and pay faster is that name and shame tactics might soon be applied to the worst offenders.
This potentially included “having a website with the good guys and the bad guys [to] keep them honest,” Carnell said.
Exposure of payments behaviour, private and public could become an annual exercise too.
“We’re interested in solid data. We are investigating the possibility of having an annual survey of payment times and working with major data providers in that space,” Carnell said.
ASBFEO is considering “a binding code or a legislative solution to the problem if it is deemed to be significant” Carnell said.