Intelligent Spend Management in the Public Sector
SAP Concur says it's time for the public sector to embrace more efficient invoice management technology
Public sector organisations face a unique responsibility when it comes to travel, expense, and invoice management. There is no wiggle room when it comes to accountability, with the public’s watchful eye tracking every move.
As these organisations have access to public funds, they have a greater obligation and a high level of fiscal responsibility. The smallest of mistakes can have big consequence for public sector bodies, especially from a reputation perspective. Despite this, many in the public sector find themselves saddled with manual processes and siloed data that gets in the way of fraud and compliance management.
Modern solutions can automate and integrate travel, expense, and invoice management with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) used to simplify compliance and provide further insight into spending activities.
Automated travel, expense, and AP management solutions
By automating travel, expense reporting, and vendor invoice processing, public sector organisations can decrease the burden on their employees. The easier it is for these employees to submit receipts and invoices, the more likely it is that they will stay within the rules. Automation also benefits administrators, as reservations feed directly into the system and auditing functions take place automatically, allowing more time to be spent on other tasks.
Modern travel, expense, and invoice management platforms also deliver automated workflows, pulling together end-to-end data with minimal human effort. This improves transparency, providing descriptive words and exception reports for review, rather than having to look for a needle in a haystack.
For example, a system may automatically gather itinerary data, receipts, and other key information to streamline the expense reporting process. On top of this, an invoice processing tool can eliminate manual invoice routing and approvals, making it easier to catch duplicate invoices and easily manage exceptions.
Embracing machine learning and artificial intelligence
A study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that the average organisation loses five per cent of its annual revenue to internal fraud. Much of this is accidental and could be avoided. Modern technologies such as AI and ML can be used by public sector organisations to ease the reporting and compliance burden, as well as flagging any errors that a human might miss.
These technologies can also spot anomalies to support detection and auditing. A human auditor can only see so much, whereas AI can dig deeper, faster via training on millions of anonymized expense reports as well as public information. Leveraging this vast knowledge base, AI can rapidly and accurately assess factors too numerous or subtle to be caught by manual means.
Accuracy in public sector travel, expense and vendor invoice processing is another area that can be improved by technology. Optical character recognition (OCR) and three-way match are two high-end tools that boost both compliance and transparency.
OCR is a technology that turns written documents into actionable date. Combined with ML, it can read receipts, boarding passes, cell phone bills and other key documents. This speeds payment requests and ensures a higher level of accuracy in reporting.
Three-way matching, meanwhile, provides a way to bring together key pieces of information, such as an invoice, purchase order and receiving documentation. This allows public sector organisations to match vendor invoices with purchase orders and received services before the invoices and processed and paid.
With three-way matching, finance departments can prevent late and duplicate payments. This helps to mitigate unauthorized, unapproved, or fraudulent payments; and guard against theft and embezzlement.
Meeting the higher bar
Officials in the public sector and education must meet a higher bar of responsibility around travel, expense, and invoice management. Modern solutions can help meet that unique obligation by delivering a high level of automation backed by ML and supported by specialized tools like OCR and three-way matching. It’s a modernized approach that helps those in the public sector and higher education fulfil their mandate.
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