Council comes under fire regarding unpaid supplier bills

Several service providers to the Athlone Municipal District have criticised the local authority for the length of time they have been forced to wait for payment.

A motion was raised at Monday’s district meeting by Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hogan, querying why certain payments have not been taken care of since February of this year.

In his reply, director of services Barry Kehoe told councillors that as of September 8 invoices totaling €1.22 million were due to be paid in the Municipal District. Mr Kehoe pointed to flood prevention measures, the road repair programme that followed, and queries regarding certain invoices as the reason behind some of the delay. He added that “every effort is being made to resolve these issues and issue payment as soon as possible”.

Cllr Hogan said he has been approached by several frustrated suppliers claiming some invoices dating back as far as February have not yet been paid. He told the chamber that business people rely on prompt payment for services rendered. He questioned why the bills have been allowed to roll over and called for a commitment that they would be taken care of before the next meeting in October.

Fine Gael councillor John Dolan said he has also been approached by suppliers questioning why they have not yet received payments. He said it is “more than disappointing” and “embarrassing” to have had to experience this.

Cllr Dolan said the prompt payment of bills has always been a “hallmark” of doing business with the local authority, and that he does not blame certain businesses for refusing to supply the district until they have been paid. He too called for a commitment that the invoices will be processed without delay.

Mr Kehoe acknowledged that there were certain bills that should have been paid by now and extended the council’s apologies to those affected. Not attempting to play the issue down, he added that he “would hate it to go out” that the figure unpaid since February stands at €1.22 million, when €929,000 of that total refers to invoices received just this month.

District manager Pat Keating confirmed that just four invoices currently unpaid are from before May of this year and amount to €3,400.

Mr Kehoe said that he will look into the reasons behind the delay in each payment and issue a report to councillors at October’s meeting of the Municipal District.

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