Last May, a government report on e-Invoicing in the public sector was published, and this was something that I welcomed wholeheartedly. Indeed, Causeway has been actively encouraging the wider uptake of e-Invoicing in the public sector for some years.

Since that time there has been considerable, and equally welcome, progress with the development of a business case for e-Invoicing in the UK public sector and also an Interoperability Charter for the public sector.

This latest Interoperability Charter, being introduced by the UK National e-Invoicing Forum (UKNeF), builds on an earlier version that was launched by BASDA (Business Applications Software Developers Association) under my stewardship as chair of the e-Business Group in April 2013.

There are many reasons for championing the wider use of e-Invoicing within the public sector, not least because it has been estimated that it could result in economic benefits of £22bn-£28bn per annum for a relatively small investment.

This is something that has already been recognised in the private sector but uptake in the public sector has been very slow thus far.

The business case for e-Invoicing in the public sector was launched at the Government Procurement Summit in December, spelling out the benefits, and there is every reason to hope that this will prove to be a ‘game changer’.

Many of the reasons for this are outlined in an excellent article by Nigel Taylor.

Consequently, the adoption of e-Invoicing should be a ‘no-brainer’ as it delivers benefits to both buyers and suppliers. These include:

Benefits for buyer:

  • The buyer no longer has to manually re-key documents.
  • Rejection of invoices that contain obvious errors can be automated.
  • Accounts staff only need deal with invoices that have passed initial quality checks.
  • Buyers are able to send electronic purchase orders, providing higher levels of validation and automation.
  • Back-office costs are reduced without affecting front-line services

Benefits for suppliers

  • Suppliers save the time and cost of printing and posting.
  • Suppliers receive confirmation that their invoice has been received.
  • Queries and payment delays are reduced.

Ultimately, auto matching of invoices is possible, delivering benefits to all parties.

Another major benefit of e-Invoicing is that it will encourage greater inclusion of small and medium-sized enterprises in the public procurement process. Initiatives such as Tradex Active, which facilitates the adoption of e-Trading by smaller organisations, will play a key role in this.

Other than a reluctance to change there are no good reasons for the public sector not to adopt e-Invoicing more widely. The infrastructure is in place and the technologies are tried and tested. All that has been lacking in the past is the will and we must hope that pressure from a senior central and local government level is sufficient to overcome what are really quite flimsy barriers.

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