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March 14, 2017

Automated accountability for payments is good

THE CHALLENGE OF CHASING PAPER

The National Health Department is tasked with improving the health status of all citizens through programs that promote the prevention of illnesses and the encouragement of healthy lifestyles. It is this government department’s
responsibility to consistently improve the healthcare delivery system by focusing on access, equity, efficiency,
quality and sustainability.

“Making our job difficult was the fact that we couldn’t effectively track our invoices,” recalls Pieter Erasmus, Deputy Director: Logistical Management at the National Health Department.

“Once submitted, it was difficult to track invoices, as they could be anywhere in the payment process. “We also had no early warning system to monitor our invoices, to notify us when an invoice was about to become overdue and required intervention. We sometimes only found out that invoices were late, after the fact,” he says.

“So we decided that we needed an invoice tracking system. Aside from making logistical sense, it was also an MPAT requirement, as all government departments had been advised to introduce an electronic invoice tracking system,” Erasmus explains.

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AUTOMATED

“We’re now working with Boxfusion’s Payments & Invoice Tracking Module,” Erasmus says, “and the biggest benefit is that we now have a view of all invoices. We can see exactly where they are in the department and at which stage of the payment process. Invoices can be forwarded and returned electronically, and we no longer need to send messengers to our other offices only to discover that managers are in meetings and unable to sign off invoices.

“Our system alerts the relevant user constantly, so they know there is an invoice waiting in their inbox that they have to action,” he says.

GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT

It was necessary for the Department of Health to have the whole Payments & Invoice Tracking system configured to be precisely in line with how they do business in their logistical unit. It was a time-consuming task, but “we received
endless support from Boxfusion,” Erasmus recalls.

Erasmus notes that the Department had a very clear implementation plan in place. Although it took eight months from signing the contract with Boxfusion until implementation, this was time well spent on customisation and training. Only once these tasks had been completed, was the system piloted.

“We weren’t in a hurry, we wanted to implement the system correctly from the start,” Erasmus clarifies. “Working with Boxfusion, we did everything we could to ensure implementation was as smooth as possible.” The adoption process itself was somewhat tricky. There were those within the department that welcomed and praised the change in process, and there were others who were a bit more sceptical.

“From the moment we implemented the system, we noticed that there was a slight increase in late payments, which is attributable to the fact that our payments and invoices are being monitored properly now. The moment an invoice comes into our system, the system automatically starts counting the days, and nothing gets missed.” Erasmus says.

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

Now that the manual, paper-based processes of tracking payments and invoices is a thing of the past, the logistical officials no longer have to spend time chasing paper invoices and waiting for approval from busy managers.
The process is now mostly seamless and paperless, from start to end.

“Our experience of working with Boxfusion was a great one. One normally wouldn’t expect a supplier to respond after hours on a weeknight, but Boxfusion did. There was also a period of about three months where they felt like our own staff, they spent so much time at our offices,” he says.

Having achieved the customisation of an automated solution that tracks an invoice from the moment it is deposited through to payment, is no small feat. Erasmus says such a system also speeds up the payment process and helps to ensure that important healthcare initiatives are no longer delayed by missing or outstanding invoices.

“I’d just like to advise other departments that it will be necessary to take hold of their staff capacity within their supply chain unit, before starting the task of implementing this system. It’s an excellent system, and well worth it, but there is an additional workload associated with loading documentation onto the system. The pay-off of increased efficiency and accountability is well worth it in the end,” Erasmus concludes.

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