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Tender Process For The Tough-Minded

Speaking of transparency in the same sentence as tendering to government; surely not? Chartered accountant [CA(SA)] Julius Mojapelo, Senior Executive for the Public Sector, at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) sets the record straight.

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Speaking of transparency in the same sentence as tendering to government; surely not? Chartered accountant [CA(SA)] Julius Mojapelo, Senior Executive for the Public Sector, at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) sets the record straight.


There are many Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) doing honest deals with government, through a legal, transparent process of procurement and Tendering.   

But the truth is that by far the majority of SMMEs steer well clear of government even though BBBEE and tendering rules favour them. As important as it is for tender processes to be above board for SMMEs who find these processes onerous enough, SMMEs generally don’t look for business from Government at any level for a much more critical (to them) reason. They do not on average get paid on time by public institutions. 

And as a result, over 80% of SMMEs don’t do business with government at any level.

This was among the findings of the 2016 SMME Insights Survey conducted by SAICA, which is the most recent research on the topic by the institution. 

The SMME Insights Survey is a substantive study, which has been conducted annually since 2014.  The average turnover of these enterprises is R10.9 million, with a third employing between six and 49 people. These companies are, according to the National Development Plan, the country’s only hope of reducing unemployment and poverty and of boosting our failing levels of gross domestic product.

Related: How To Make A Success of Tendering

Among the survey’s critical conclusions is that SMMEs (and by extension our country) could flourish if the tender process was simplified and made more transparent, and if government and big business paid their accounts on or before 30 days. 

Public finance management capacity building

In the light of the low uptake by SMMEs in tendering for government contracts and the often bemoaned slow payment by government it is heartening to learn that SAICA is working with government to improve public finance management capacity. 

But what, exactly, is being done?

“Providing public finance management capacity building support is a priority at SAICA,” says Mojapelo. “This involves collaboration with public sector institutions to help them improve financial management systems and processes to ensure sustainable service delivery.” Paying SMMEs on time would be one of the outcomes.

“SAICA is also educating SMMEs and SAICA members who interact with SMMEs on the process of doing business with government. This makes it easier for SMMEs to tender for contracts.”

But with slow payment by government a concern for many SMMEs is Mojapelo optimistic about a turnaround? “I see signs of government’s commitment to turning the situation around, through recent legislation and measures,” he confides. 

“Among them,” explains Mojapelo, “Treasury Regulations 8.2.3 states that, unless determined otherwise in a contract or other agreement, all payments due to creditors must be settled within 30 days from receipt of an invoice or, in the case of civil claims, from the date of settlement or court judgement.” 

“Specifically; these measures include establishing a dedicated call centre within National Treasury to assist institutions and affected suppliers in resolving non-payment of suppliers/creditors appointed through the supply chain management process.” 

Tellingly, National Treasury will provide quarterly reports to parliament regarding the non-payment of creditors within 30 days, and make the reports public. 

While this is a step in the right direction, SMMEs remain unconvinced about doing business with government. The proof of the pudding it seems will only emerge in the eating.   

Facilitating payment of long standing government debtors

Mojapelo sympathises with the plight of SMMEs, struggling to get payment from government.  

“The Small Enterprise Development Agency payment assistance hotline is a very important platform that SMMEs can use to facilitate payment of long outstanding payments from public sector institutions (www.seda-smme.co.za),” says Mojapelo. 

And current legislation protects SMMEs in instances of slow payment.

Related: Engineering Consulting Business Plan Sample

“Should entities fail to comply with the 30 days payment terms, this will result in non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury Regulations,” explains Mojapelo. 

In the words of Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development in a budget speech earlier this year, “National Treasury has gazetted the revised Preferential Procurement Regulations in January 2017, which encourages Government and its entities to procure at least 30% of goods and services from SMMEs and Cooperatives.” 

But, as the Minister observed, “The contribution of SMMEs to the South African economy is far below its potential.”

“According to the Quarterly Financial Statistics Report, the private sector earned a total of R2.3 trillion in the last quarter of 2016. Large businesses…contributed 60% to this total, followed by small and medium businesses at 40%.”  

“We need to do better and match the global average which shows that small businesses share higher levels of participation in various economies. This is possible if we heed the President’s directive to set aside 30% of government procurement budget of around R600 billion towards SMMEs and Cooperatives.”

SMMEs might be tempted to reply to Minister Zulu that “the contribution of government to encourage SMME involvement by paying its bills on time is also far below its potential.”

The ball, it seems, is firmly in government’s court. There is no chicken and egg situation here. If government pays on time SMMEs will engage in droves. 

The continued growth of SMMEs rests on government’s commitment to delivering on tender and payment policy.  Everyone’s a winner when we create jobs through transparent tenders, fairly awarded, and where work is paid on time.

SMMEs wanting to report slow payment by government may call 0860 766 3729.  

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Government Injection To SMEs Cautiously Welcomed

Mboweni said the Jobs Fund is a vital complement to private sector job creation. “The Fund has disbursed R4.6bn in grant funding, and created well over 200,000 jobs since inception. The allocation to this Fund will rise over the next three years to R1.1bn,” said Mboweni.

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Riversands Incubation Hub has welcomed the allocation of R481.6m of the 2019 national budget to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) to expand the small business incubation programme, saying this will strengthen co-ordination and partnership agreements with other SME agencies and incubation programmes.

“South Africa’s entrepreneurial economy is built on linkages and networks across industry sectors, and the stronger these are, the higher the chances of SMEs surviving and thriving, which is critical if the economy is to grow,” says Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni also undertook to free entrepreneurs from stifling regulations and complicated taxes, which Retief said would encourage and boost trade in this sector. “The frustrations that many entrepreneurs feel in the current business space, which is overburdened with tax red tape and obstructive labour regulations, will hopefully be alleviated. The sustainability of many early-stage SMEs is significantly dependent on ease of doing business,” says Retief.

Mboweni said the Jobs Fund is a vital complement to private sector job creation. “The Fund has disbursed R4.6bn in grant funding, and created well over 200,000 jobs since inception. The allocation to this Fund will rise over the next three years to R1.1bn,” said Mboweni.

The Government has also allocated R19.8bn for industrial business incentives, of which R600m has gone to the clothing and textile competitiveness programme. This will support 35 500 existing jobs and create about 25 000 new jobs over the next three years.

“It is particularly exciting to see this commitment, because the lack of locally produced textiles is a significant constraint for the local fashion industry. It also offers strong synergies for desperately needed rural development. A counterpart in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was recently telling me about South Africa’s capacity to produce a superb range of raw materials such as wool – not only from sheep but also alpacas and of course cotton. Building the local textile industry to beneficiate these raw materials offers benefits all round,” comments Retief.

Retief said these injections will stimulate entrepreneurship in sectors that are under-resourced, but that ongoing support is essential to ensuring that these jobs survive. “Business savvy and financial literacy is a road that requires solid guidance along the way. This is where incubation programmes such as ours provide critical value and sustainability,” says Retief.

Retief endorsed the recent call by the Small Business Institute for the Finance Ministry to request an audit of government’s overall financial support to small businesses, to gauge where targets are not being met and equally, where there are success stories. “This will provide a clearer picture of where fiscal priorities should lie going forward,” said Retief.

While the allocation of R69bn towards the plan to unbundle Eskom is laudable, Retief said it remains to be seen whether this will improve the prognosis for Eskom, and by extension, the viability of millions of entrepreneurs and SMEs dependent on consistent electricity flow. “Ongoing load-shedding would be nothing short of disastrous for countless small businesses across the country, so we will be watching the Eskom situation closely in the coming months. Our own business has also been set back by power cuts over the past month,” says Retief.

Mboweni’s emphasis on the private sector as the key engine for job creation was correctly placed, along with his policy actions aimed at ending the uncertainty that has undermined confidence and constrained private sector investment, Retief said. “The devil is in the detail, however, and the sooner entrepreneurs and SMEs feel these differences, the more growth we will see from this vital sector,” she says.

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#Budget2019: But What About Small Businesses?

Where is the focus on growing South Africa’s small business sector?

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That is the overriding question we are left with at the end of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden budget speech. The few mentions the Minister made about Small & Medium Businesses were short on detail at a time when we desperately need to supercharge the growth of this segment.

A highlight of the speech from Sage’s perspective was the Minister’s acknowledgement that we must free small businesses from stifling regulations and complicated taxes because we desperately need them to boost employment and drive competition. This aligns with President Ramaphosa’s pledge to improve the ease of doing business in his State of the Nation Address this year.

However, these pronouncements need to be followed rapidly by concrete policies and regulation. We believe that there are many steps government could take to streamline red-tape for small businesses -from streamlining some SARS processes such as VAT refunds and issuing of tax clearance certificates to increasing the maximum thresholds for turnover tax and VAT registration.

We hope to hear more about such steps after the May general election and in the October Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

One welcome announcement in the speech was the allocation of R481.6 million to the Small Enterprise Development Agency to expand the small business incubation programme. Such programmes can play an invaluable role in helping small businesses to survive the difficult start-up phase and then scale up into larger businesses.

As a software company, we were also pleased that the Minister spoke about using the budget to get our country ready for technology. His focus on the importance of technology in education, his commitment to working with the Minister of Communications to resolve the issue of spectrum licensing in order to drive down data costs, and his mention of FinTech innovation programmes at the Reserve Bank all point to a focus on creating a competitive, digital country that ready for the future.

However, I would have liked to have seen more of a specific focus on innovation as a vehicle for driving economic growth. The fourth industrial revolution and the rise of a digital economy has been a theme of recent government speeches and addresses, and it would be good to see the words matched with investments and policies.

On the whole, Minister Mboweni and the National Treasury have done a good job of negotiating a challenging economic climate. They are to be commended for balancing the books, keeping a lid on government spending, taking steps to put Eskom and other state-owned entities on a more sustainable footing, and committing towards investing in infrastructure.

Such steps could help boost business confidence and create an enabling environment for businesses of all sizes. As the Minister notes, the private sector is the key engine for job creation. Taking policy actions that offer more certainty to the business community will help to reinvigorate investment in the economy and unlock entrepreneurial activity.

Budget2019: Commentary by Rob Cooper

General comments

As expected, this was a conservative budget with no sweeping changes to most forms of taxation. The Finance Minister took advantage of some new revenue sources such as carbon taxes, but, for the most part, continued to stick to the script of limiting bracket creep adjustment, sin taxes and fuel levies to raise more money.

We can but hope that the decision for the government not to take on Eskom’s debt and a reduction of public expenditure by around R50 billion since the October mini-budget will be enough to convince Moody’s not to downgrade South Africa’s sovereign credit rating.

Personal income tax

The Minister and his team have raised income taxes by stealth by choosing not to adjust tax brackets to allow for inflation this year. Unlike previous years, even low- and middle-income earners are not getting much respite. Rebates and the tax threshold are being increased by small amounts to allow a bit of relief from inflation, but most people earning above the tax threshold (raised from R78,150 to R79,000) will feel some pain.  This measure will raise around R12.8 billion in revenue for the tax year. 

National Health Insurance

The Finance Minister decided not to apply an inflationary increase to the Medical Tax Credit, which will allow him to raise an extra R1 billion in revenue for the year. This is not surprising since government is phasing out this credit and gearing up for a wider rollout of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

What is surprising is that the funds will be allocated to general revenue rather than NHI, as was the case in previous years when below-inflation increase on medical scheme credits were used to fund NHI pilot projects. I am glad that the tax credit is still with us because it helps to make private medical cover affordable for millions of low-income South Africans. We heard no news about how the NHI will be funded and will need to wait for the government to table the bill that includes funding to find out more.

Employment tax incentive

It was heartening to hear that about 1.1 million young people have been employed under the Employment Tax Incentive scheme. The incentive of up to R1 000 can now be claimed for employees earning up to R4,500 per month, up from R4,000, and the remuneration threshold has been increased by R500 to R6,500. This is a necessary and welcome adjustment for inflation.

Bearing in mind that the ETI has been extend for 10 years, I was hoping for an indication in the budget that the policy-makers will be considering changes to simplify the ETI requirements, thereby increasing the take-up by employers.

Tax collection

We can expect to see tax reforms in the years to come, with Minister Mboweni recommitting to improving administration at SARS. Judge Dennis Davis will be assessing the tax gap — the difference between revenue SARS collects and what it should collect. Restoring SARS to a world-class administration machine and improving compliance could go a long way to cushioning compliant taxpayers from tax increases and new taxes in the year to come.

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2019 National Budget Speech: Five Positive, Key Take Outs For Local SMEs

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni today referenced the private sector as the key engine for job creation in his National Budget speech.

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Ben Bierman, MD of Business Partners Limited, fully supports this statement, and says that there are five key take outs that local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from:

1. Falling data costs

Minister Mboweni was adamant that the cost of data must fall, and committed to work relentlessly with the necessary parties to ensure this happens. As data gets cheaper, there will be more opportunities for SMEs and entrepreneurs to build their business and for new technology businesses to emerge. Making data more affordable and accessible can go a long way in driving economic and SME growth.

2. The R30 billion allocated to build new schools and maintain school infrastructure spend

National infrastructure spend is likely to be a big contributor to SME growth, and will create positive knock-on effects for job creation in the sector. Not only will SMEs be included in the supply stream, but as infrastructure projects are rolled out, economic growth will be positively impacted, having a downstream effect on small business.

3. Relaxed visa requirements

Relaxed visa requirements provide an enhanced opportunity for SMEs operating in the tourism industry, driving growth and the creation of new jobs. As tourism is a substantial contributor to the country’s GDP, the increasing the number of visitors to South Africa is extremely beneficial to the macro environment as well as for businesses operating both directly and indirectly in the tourism sector.

4. Allocation of R3.2 billion to operationalise the small business and innovation fund over the MTEF

The R3.2 billion budget allocation for the small business and innovation fund is a definite positive development for the country’s entrepreneurial eco-system and is anticipated to contribute to the creation of more innovative businesses that can respond to the opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Also noteworthy is the R481.6 million allocated to the Small Enterprise Development Agency’s incubation programme expected to bolster the creation of new businesses and survival rate of existing businesses.

5. Industrial business incentives

The R19.8 billion allocated to industrial business incentives will not only benefit the national economy as a whole, but it will yield opportunities for local industrial SMEs and create job opportunities.

The R600 million assigned to the clothing and textile competitiveness programme is also a much needed boost to revitalise this struggling sector of our economy that has historically been a driver of economic growth.

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