DIY - Do It Yourself
There are service providers that offer, for a fee, rule driven data analysis that traps possible duplicate or over payments. These services are priced either as a fixed cost or for a portion of recovered funds. It is claimed, plausibly, that these efforts are successful in recovering funds disbursed in error. However, we do not recommend this approach for several reasons:
- Transaction analysis based on rules are never 100% effective. Heuristic processes are by their nature iterative; and require time and diligence for the process effectiveness to improve to an acceptable return.
- Paying a portion of recovered funds does limit the cost of recovery to less than the total funds recovered; but there is often a fixed start-up cost for this service.
- Capturing funds after the fact ignores the loss of availability of that cash for the period before the disbursement was caught.
We believe that the better approach to the problem of duplicate or erroneous remittances is a combination of: proactive data configuration; formal process controls; and reporting created to support continuous process audits. This approach has 4 advantages:
- There are virtually no fixed costs to implement
- Cost of the additional controls are minimal
- Most errors are captured before payments are released
- Internal audits add no additional cost to recovery
Should you realize that some of your current, or planned, processes are not consistent with the recommendations that follow, it does not mean that you have rampant duplicate payments. It is intended as a checklist to ensure you have done your best to provide the process controls to minimize payment error. And that you have established the necessary reporting for effective and frequent audit of disbursements.
Actively audit for duplicate payments
- Consolidate data from as many payables sources as possible Before any effective audit can be performed, access to all the relevant data is required. Consolidating data from as many resources as possible to a single reporting system will make audits efficient so that they can be done frequently. Software, such as Ariba Analysis, provides an analytic engine capable of reporting and comparing data across multiple data sources.
- Create a formal process to audit for duplicate payments If your volume of transactions is large enough, consider establishing an internal audit position that reviews for duplicate payments.
- Focus the audits on the areas of best opportunity for duplicate payments Auditing should be focused on large dollar invoices and high volume suppliers. When it comes to duplicate payments, not all transactions or suppliers provide similar opportunity for funds recovery. Develop some extra checking routines around large volume or high cost invoices to be completely certain a duplicate payment is not being made.
- Check T&E sources for possible payments that might have been invoiced. Occasionally an employee will pay for something with a personal credit card (or cash) and request compensation on their T&E expense reimbursement report. Employees sometimes request reimbursements on the expense report and then submit an invoice for payment. T&E Data sources should be included in any consolidated reporting database.
Segregate Suppliers with Differing Payment Methods
It is recommended that supplier processing be segregated by payment type. Suppliers should be set up with a separate post office box, email address, and Fax numbers for those vendors who you pay with credit or purchasing cards. Invoices sent to either location can be checked against credit card statements to ensure payment is made only once. Suppliers who have more than one payment method should have more than one supplier ID; each corresponding to the one of the different payment methods. These suppliers should have different contact information, but should have the same supplier parent for reporting purposes.
Consistent Business Processes Per Supplier
The trend is for companies to no longer enter invoices manually. The internet has made it easy for companies to use electronic invoicing solutions and other electronic means of transferring invoices. If a supplier is set up to process invoices via the Ariba Supplier Network (ASN), be sure that all invoices for that supplier go through the ASN. Key data elements, such as the suppliers invoice number, must be unique. The uniqueness of that number is a first line of defense against a duplicate payment when an invoice is sent both manually and electronically. Because of this, duplicate payments will slip through if there is no check for duplicate invoice numbers. Ariba’s P2P application requires that the combination of Supplier ID and Invoice number be unique for this reason.
Formalize Procurement & Credit Card Procedures
Credit card companies are pushing organizations to use procurement cards in their purchasing. Historically, company issued procurement cards were reserved for low dollar
items but that is no longer the case. It is not uncommon for a company to require that all purchases under $10,000 be paid through a credit card. As the use of credit cards increases, we have seen a rise in the number of duplicate payments made where the item was paid via a credit card and then mistakenly pay the invoice sent by the supplier. If you are going to use a credit card for a supplier, be sure that every transaction for that supplier is placed on the credit card. Develop reports to determine which suppliers you have purchased items both on card and manual invoice. This report should be reviewed and audited on a monthly basis.
Credit card electronic data feeds can be invaluable in capturing credit card payments before an invoice can be paid in error. These feeds can be sent as frequently as nightly; and the Level 2 and 3 charge formats can include invoice numbers. Issuing a purchasing card number should be coupled with the provision that an invoice number is required from the vendor on the credit or purchasing card transaction record. It is also possible to add the Purchasing Order number to the variable data length field in the card transaction feed. It is often not possible to capture these numbers from the supplier; if so then purchasing cards should be limited to low value, less frequent supplier purchases so that the impact of duplicate payments can be lessened.
Separate the Purchase Order Processing from Receiving
Enforcing receiving prevents duplicate invoices by intercepting the over payment as an over receipt of goods. It is imperative that whoever makes the payment takes all the steps normally taken by in accounts payable. This means using the same rigid coding standards and distinguishing between the purchase orders (requester) and receiving documents(the receiver).