Covid quarantine centre owners angered by slow govt payments



Bereng Mpaki

THE operators of hospitality establishments that were engaged by the government to offer quarantine facilities for Covid-19 patients are angry with the slow manner in which the authorities are remitting their payments.

The Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association (LHHA) says only 10 out of 41 centres have so far received part of what they are owed by the government since April this year.

While it is unclear how much the government is owing the centres, the LHHA estimates that the total bill could be in excess of M100 million.

LHHA chairperson ‘Marethabile Sekhiba said while some centres have started receiving part payments, they remain frustrated over the delays after providing services to the government starting in April.

“To date, only 10 establishments have received payment and all 10 have only received a less than 40 percent of their invoices,” Ms Sekhiba said.

She said the government has told them it does not have enough money to pay them.

“We had to go back to cabinet to get an explanation for the delays and we were told there was insufficient funds. They asked for an additional two weeks from 5 to 20 November 2020 to make the payments.

“However, nothing came from the extension.

“This is frustrating because the government committed to making all payments with an understanding that they had all our invoices and they were aware of their bank balances. What happened to the money that was supposed to pay us? Why are we being sacrificed? Does the government see our businesses as insignificant?”

Ms Sekhiba said the payment delays have seriously affected their cash-flows thereby threatening their ability to retain their employees while they were also failing to service their own debts.

“It has been our constant endeavour to maintain good relations with our suppliers and employees but we are dismally failing due to the lack of payment,” Ms Sekhiba said.

Finance minister, Thabo Sophonea, in November told parliament that the government had started paying its suppliers. He said M182 million has been paid for the Ministry of Health.

With a total of M400 million paid to its suppliers, the government is still owing M600 million to service providers some for as far as six years ago.

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