Removing paper headaches from accounts payable

Article image - Removing paper headaches from accounts payable No more paper headaches in accounts payable for Burke Shire CEO Sharon Daishe (left) and Administration Officer Ferne Clarke.

The Burke Shire in Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria may be one of the state’s most remote councils, but its team is thinking outside the box when it comes to innovation.

The Shire covers an area of over 40,000 square kilometres with a permanent population of only 550 people distributed between Burketown, Gregory and rural stations.  

Like other local government areas with small populations, Burke does not have the funds to purchase costly electronic financial software, so it’s thinking outside the box.

The Council is implementing best practice innovation to increase efficiencies and cost savings by moving away from a paper-based accounts payable process to an electronic process using its electronic document and records management system (InfoXpert) and financial software (PCS Practical).

A review of accounts payable processes using Continuous Improvement methodology showed that the Council could process payments faster by implementing an electronic system that does not require any hard copy records.

Burke Shire Chief Executive Officer Sharon Daishe said that local government areas like Burke, which have large land areas but small populations, need to leverage the limited resources that they have.

“InfoXpert and PCS allow us to have an accounts payable process that is faster and easier to audit,” said Ms Daishe.

“The removal of paper from the process not only improves our bottom line in material costs, but also in labour.”

The implementation of an electronic accounts payable process at Burke Shire was a bottom-up initiative driven by Administration Officer Ferne Clarke, whose responsibilities include Document and Information Management, Information Technology and Process Improvement.

“We implemented the process in October this year and have put a lot of time into testing. Before rolling out any new process like this, it’s important that you try your best to break it,” said Ms Clarke.

“As with any new process, we have found areas to tweak so that we get a result that everyone can embrace.”

Burke Shire’s implementation of an electronic accounts payable process is giving the organisation the agility it needs to fully comply with local government legislative and reporting requirements.

“Once it’s in the system, it’s there forever and can be traced. It’s a lot more challenging to do that if you’re relying on paper documentation,” said Ms Clarke.

The mechanics of adapting the accounts payable process means that the Council has created electronic versions of all hard copy forms and uploaded them into infoXpert.  

Using workflows and tasks, the end-to-end accounts payable process can now be tracked and actioned.  This includes approvals, and provides a full audit trail of all associated documents and transactions in PCS.

Ms Daishe said that great ideas like this can come from anywhere in a Council team.

“We embrace the bottom-up philosophy because it recognises the fact that there is a wellspring of talent and ingenuity across the whole workforce.”

The Burke Shire Council welcomes any enquiries from other Councils who would are considering moving from paper-based to electronic accounts payable processes.