Digital government report

eInvoicing: Responding to business in a digital age

Currently, the eInvoicing Ireland team is supporting public bodies in reaching compliance with the eInvoicing Directive deadline of 18 April 2020 against a most unexpected backdrop. Declan McCormack, eInvoicing Ireland programme manager, explores the role digital has played in facilitating our new work environments. 

Transforming the way governments transact with businesses across Europe is increasingly becoming one of the main advantages of adopting the European Directive 2014/55/EU on electronic invoicing in public procurement (the eInvoicing Directive), particularly when chosen as the main method for invoice processing. By adopting the European standard for eInvoicing as required by the Directive, and by choosing the Peppol network for the transmission of eInvoices, public administrations are helping to establish a shared European pathway for suppliers to make greater use of digital in doing business.

This common approach by public administrations helps suppliers to simplify the choices they need to make and to avoid costs, when they are considering doing business digitally with public sector clients at home and internationally. In Ireland, most main invoice processing bodies across the public sector have now established Peppol based eInvoicing.

Digital processing of eInvoices reduces and can eliminate manual intervention altogether, facilitating a wide range of benefits. The elnvoicing community, here in Ireland and across Europe, have long been extolling the benefits of digitally transforming established paper-based invoice processes.

However, the transition to a distributed and remote working model, for so many people in recent weeks, has highlighted the advantages of digitising invoice receipt and workflow processes. eInvoicing is helping public and private organisations to maintain the flow of payments to suppliers, an important support for the economy particularly during challenging times, such as these.

Reflecting on this renewed interest in digital in recent weeks, I’m reminded of Milton Friedman’s famous assertion: ‘Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.’ Ideas can be out there, widely acknowledged as excellent concepts but may not have been properly embraced or realised. It isn’t until a crisis and ‘the impossible becomes the inevitable’.

For most of us, our priority has been to do what we can to support those on the front line of the global response to the ongoing pandemic, including staying at home. In that regard, the global response has in many respects been a digital response, supporting a wide range of businesses and services to continue and to meet the needs of their customers, clients, students, and workers in a new way, while adhering to the essential health measures.

Our citizens of all ages have become more digitally enabled and are now experiencing technology in radically different ways, from facilitating schooling and work to shopping, supporting each other and socialising. As a result, citizens and businesses will expect a broader digital response from the Government in the delivery of services and business transactions from now on.

Although the eInvoicing Ireland team have experienced an increased interest in eInvoicing from those looking for an efficient and digital response to the current situation, we also understand that others have been delayed in implementing eInvoicing in time for the April 2020 eInvoicing Directive deadline, due to the disruption caused by
Covid 19.

We are working with organisations to help them quickly establish eInvoicing compliance now that the deadline has passed and would urge any public bodies, not yet compliant, to engage with the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) eInvoicing and Peppol network framework, available from the Buyers Zone at www.ogp.gov.ie.

The Office of Government Procurement eInvoicing and Peppol Framework

To facilitate public bodies in reaching compliance with the eInvoicing Directive, the eInvoicing and Peppol Framework was established by the OGP with the eInvoicing Ireland team. The eInvoicing Ireland Steering Committee, comprising senior representatives from the four OGP sector partners across Central and Local Government, Health and Education, informed the establishment of the framework. The comprehensive framework, with three separate Lots, offers services and solutions which are compliant with the European Standard on eInvoicing as prescribed by the eInvoicing Directive and caters for the diverse range of needs and requirements across all public sector bodies.

The eInvoicing service providers on the framework are connecting public bodies to the Peppol network and offering solutions and services to enable basic compliance with the Directive as well as a more fully integrated approach to eInvoicing, facilitating ‘straight-through processing’. In this way the eInvoices can be transmitted directly into back office systems as data fields and then processed for payment, allowing goods receipting, tracking and spend analysis, whilst minimising the need for manual intervention. eInvoicing and straight-through processing are helping businesses pay and receive money faster and more efficiently.

eInvoicing implementation

In considering eInvoicing implementation, public sector bodies should refer to the Six Steps to becoming compliant as outlined in the eInvoicing Ireland guide (see Figure 1). Public bodies should undertake a thorough analysis of the current invoice processing environment and then rethink those processes in the context of digital. Kildare County Council benefitted from this approach when they were looking at eInvoicing implementation last year with the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA). Mary Behan, Head of IT, Kildare County Council who was involved in implementing eInvoicing spoke at the recent eInvoicing Ireland implementation event held in conjunction with the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in Dublin Castle and her presentation is available on the OGP YouTube channel.

Figure 1: Becoming eInvoicing enabled in compliance with the eInvoicing Directive

All public sector bodies should follow six steps:

1. Conduct an internal analysis of the organisation’s current invoice processing environment including invoice volumes, supplier profiles and systems involved. eInvoicing Ireland have developed preparatory worksheets to support public bodies in undertaking this exercise, available at: www.ogp.gov.ie/einvoicing.

2. Identify the internal people/teams involved in invoice processing including the finance, ICT and procurement teams.

3. Develop the organisation’s eInvoicing strategy/approach, stipulating whether basic compliance or fully integrated eInvoicing services/solutions are required for the organisation.

4. Access the eInvoicing Framework through the Buyers Zone at ogp.gov.ie

5. Public sector bodies not due to come under the shared-services or co- ordinating facilities across Central and Local Government, Health and Education, should refer to Lot 3 of the Framework to engage with the relevant service providers.

6. Once engaged, work with the eInvoicing service provider to implement eInvoicing across the organisation’s processes, systems and with the relevant people.

eInvoicing: Driving digital procurement and suppliers

In transposing the eInvoicing Directive, Ireland joined the rest of Europe in digitising a key element of the Procure2Pay lifecycle. eInvoicing is the key enabler joining the digital dots between the pre and post-Award procurement phases. In doing so, Ireland is supporting the European goal of moving closer towards the greener Digital Single Market, which will reduce barriers to trade, particularly important given recent impacts on the global supply chain.   

As suppliers aren’t being mandated to send eInvoices under the Irish transposition of the eInvoicing Directive, the obligation is only on public bodies to receive and process should suppliers wish to send. The efficiencies, cost savings, improved spend analysis data and environmental benefits can only be realised by driving volumes. In order to drive volumes, we need suppliers to submit eInvoices. By supporting the European standard for eInvoicing through the PEPPOL network, public bodies are meeting their legal requirements and establishing a common standardised approach both nationally and throughout the Digital Single Market. This helps suppliers make a simple and cost effective ‘connect once and connect to all’ choice to adopt eInvoicing and helps all of us to make greater use of digital in doing business.

For access to information on eInvoicing in Ireland
E: eInvoicing@ogp.gov.ie
W: www.ogp.gov.ie/eInvoicing

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