THERE's no good reason why these payments to small businesses are being delayed. At a time when businesses are struggling to keep their heads above water and banks are reluctant to lend, being paid on time can make the difference between meeting the weekly wage bill or leaving employees short.
The 15-day payment rule was introduced in 2009 to help ease cash-flow difficulties for small businesses.
Not much has changed since. If anything, business is even harder to come by and every penny counts.
But government departments are still not paying their bills on time, despite being among the few agencies in the State with the means to do so.
The €191m which was outstanding after 15 days may not seem a lot in the context of a spend of €3.5bn over the same period. But for a small business, an unpaid invoice from a state body is often on top of debts owed by private clients and can mean the difference between survival and failure.
The payment rates in local authorities should be cause for deep concern.
They are probably the biggest procurer of goods and services in the country, but many are struggling to keep their head above water and their cash-flow problems are being passed on to their suppliers.
One local authority, Sligo County Council, effectively ran out of money last year and had to increase its overdraft.
It spent €25.88m last year and 45pc of its bills were outstanding for more than 30 days.
Only in cases where an invoice is disputed should there be delays. The records show disputed invoices are few and far between – so what's the problem?
There's no point talking about a jobs strategy to get people back working if the ones already in employment risk going out of business because the State won't pay its bills.