Late payments are a persistent issue in the public sector, often causing cash flow problems and stifling supplier growth. This can cause frustration and have a significant impact on your business. Understanding why these late payments occur is the first step toward finding solutions. Here are the top 10 reasons for late payments in the public sector.

10 Reasons Why Late Payments Happen in the Public Sector

As a supplier, receiving late payment for your services can have a knock-on effect. And while the occasional delay is inevitable, understanding the reason behind them can help you avoid similar issues. 

Here are the 10 most common reasons public sector organisations pay suppliers late.

1.  Bureaucracy and red tape

Public sector organisations often have complex approval processes involving multiple levels of bureaucracy. This red tape can delay the approval and processing of invoices, resulting in late payments.

2.  Inefficient systems and processes

Outdated, inefficient systems can cause bottlenecks in invoice processing. The lack of modern, automated systems can slow the payment process, leading to delays. This is especially true when it comes to paying external suppliers.

3.  Incorrect invoicing

Errors in invoices, such as incorrect amounts, purchase order numbers or billing addresses, can cause delays. In this case, suppliers must correct and re-submit invoices, which can take time.

4.  Budget constraints

Public sector organisations operate within strict budgets. Sometimes, funds allocated for the payment of invoices may be exhausted, leading to delays until additional funds become available.

5.  Change in personnel

Staff changes or organisational changes can disrupt invoice processing. New staff may take time to familiarise themselves with their roles, which can result in payment delays.

6.  Disputes over services or goods delivered

Disputes over the quality or delivery of goods and services can delay payment, as these issues need to be resolved before public bodies approve the invoices for payment.

7.  Lack of awareness of payment regulations

Some public sector organisations may be unaware of the Public Contract Regulations 2015, which stipulate a 30-day payment term. This lack of awareness can cause unnecessary delays.

8.  Absence of a late payment policy

Without a robust late payment policy in place, there is no mechanism to discourage late payments or penalise persistent offenders within the organisation.

9.  Poor communication

Lack of clear communication between procurement, finance, and the supplier can result in misunderstandings and delays in payment.

10. Economic and political factors

Economic downturns or political uncertainties can impact public sector budgets and cause delays in payment. Brexit, for instance, has brought about changes that public sector organisations are still adapting to.

Late payments in the public sector are a major issue impacting suppliers. Nevertheless, understanding the reasons behind these late payments can help prevent these delays or find effective solutions. Improved efficiency, modern systems, accurate invoicing, and better communication can go a long way in reducing payment delays.

What to Do if you Receive Late Payments from the Public Sector

If you’re a supplier facing late payment issues, remember that you have legal rights. The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 and the Public Contract Regulations 2015 protect your interests. 

The first step is to get familiar with the relevant bills and regulations. Our Legislation page can help. It contains in-depth, up-to-date information on the laws that protect your business against late payments.

For more insights into late payment issues and legislation, check out our Articles section. 

Then, you can decide whether you are eligible to claim compensation for late payments from the public sector.

Working with a specialist service like can streamline this process and help you get late payment compensation without the hassle. Our expert team guides you through the full Claim Process, maximising your chances of a successful late payment claim.

Use our  Eligibility Checker to see if you can make a claim. Then, get an estimate on how much compensation you could get with our Claim Calculator.

Once you start your claim, we’ll take the reins and give you regular progress updates. 

That way, you can get the compensation you deserve without navigating complex legislation or claim processes.

Wrapping Up

As a supplier, identifying the “why” behind late public sector payments is the first step in addressing the issue. Not only does it help you get ahead of the problem, removing obstacles like incorrect invoices or poor communication, but it also helps you know your legal rights. If late payments persist, it may be time to consider claiming compensation. 

For more information on making a claim for late payments, visit our Make a Claim page today.

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