Strengthen businesses by settling all pending bills

A maize vendor attends to his customers in Nyeri. [Kibarta Kihu, Standard]

Early last month, government suppliers complained over the non-payment of billions of shillings and threatened to take legal action.

In an opinion article published in this newspaper, they complained that thousands of them were owed over Sh500 billion by national and county governments and other State agencies.

"Today’s businessperson is well in the middle of a wall and a hard rock. If it is not the rising cost of goods, it is the revenue man, the banker and all this would easily have been avoided if the bills were timely paid," complained the Secretary General of the Association of Public Sector General Suppliers.

According to figures released by the Controller of Budget this week, the situation has not changed as the suppliers are still owed in excess of Sh500 billion.

It is preposterous for government and its agencies to order and consume goods and services when they have no ability or plans of paying for them on time as promised.

Needless to say, the failure by the government to meet its part of the bargain has wreaked havoc on businesses and families of the suppliers. It has also cost many people their jobs. This is ironical as State procurement is supposed to have the exact opposite effect.

The government lacks the moral authority to demand prompt payment of taxes when continually delays to settle its bills without an iota of remorse. It is shameful when suppliers have to beg to be paid.

We understand the government, like all of us, is suffering due to the hard economic times. But that is not an excuse. It should refrain from ordering goods and services if it can't pay.

The State has set a bad example to the public by failing to pay within the periods agreed with  suppliers. If the government can't pay, who should?

It is imperative that the new government, which has promised to respect all 'hustles', to change this awful trend by not only settling all the pending bills, but also ensuring that goods and services are paid for promptly.

That will boost businesses and the economy.