AP automation heads north

The Northern Territory Govt is in the final phase of a three year implementation of accounts payable automation to handle 450,000 invoices per year.

The Department of Business Employment (DBE) is a shared service provider to the whole of NT government, comprising 26 separate agencies and around 2500 users.

The program has its origins in a 2007 review conducted by the NT Government that looked at backoffice activities in relation to corporate services.

The review aimed to gain efficiencies and reduce expenditure in the four areas of accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll and reporting.

Joseph Babbini, Director Program Office for the Northern Territory Government Australia, said the review recommended automating paperflow and bring the approval process online.

“The NT Government is unique in having a centralised mainframe-based accounting and HR system for all government departments. The finance accounting system is called Masterpiece from Infor,” said Mr Babbini.

A tender issued in early 2008 was won by Stellar Asia Pacific utilising the fileWise document management product.

fileWise provided the business and workflow component with Kofax providing the scanning and capture. Two dedicated scanners have been acquired from Canon and another from Epson for centralised scanning of paper invoices.

In the first phase of the AP automation project, all invoices were scanned centrally in Kofax with fileWise workflow limited to the central shared services agency, the Department of Business and Employment. This phase of the project was completed in March 2010. The next phase extended the fileWise workflow to the 26 agencies, so internal staff could approve and process payments. This was achieved by December 2010.

Once the invoice is approved, the data is exported to the mainframe accounting system and a file is sent to Westpac to deliver payment.

The next phase of the project will be focussed on procurement, and enable electronic generation of individual purchase orders to automate payment upon delivery of goods.

Mr Babbini said the agency was pleased with the level of recognition achived by the Kofax OCR processing, which hovers around 70% for paper invoices.

“It depends on the quality of the hard copy, we quite often receive copies of copies which it can struggle with, however invoices are increasingly being submitted electronically by email and recognition is 100% successful for those.

“Kofax has allowed us to classify invoices to deliver even more accuracy during the OCR process. Once it finds an ABN number it knows who the invoice has come from and thus where to look for information.”

“The Electronic Invoice Management System has had a huge impact on our efficiency in accounts payable, reducing the number of processing staff required by two thirds.”
The capabilities of the fileWise document management platform, which are not limited to Accounts payable, will see its reach being extended to other areas in the future.

DBE has already implemented a workflow for grant applications payments. Also in the works for the future is a vendor portal so suppliers can submit invoices and review their accounts electronically.