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Keep an eye on the invoices


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Keep an eye on the invoices

  1. 1. and validate these invoice files provides a much more efficient way of processing utility invoices. Once validated, invoices can be included onto a consolidated accounts payable file that can be imported to most accounts software. This process will further reduce the time internal staff spend processing these invoices and will also ensure that you only pay for what you use and do not pay any duplicate invoices. Some organisations have staff at remote sites that are responsible for energy budgets at site level and prefer to see a copy of the original paper invoice. At STC we accommodate this by making copies of original invoices available on our online web portal alongside the billing data. These can be viewed and downloaded with just a few clicks. Another advantage of having a bureau service provider is the ability to view invoices from all suppliers on one web portal. This includes all fuel types such as electricity, gas and water. STC have the only supplier integrated online query management system that provides utility suppliers direct access to queries, and we find that this achieves a quicker resolution. Since 2005, STC have recovered over £130m worth of utility billing errors for its customers. Apart from direct cost saving opportunities, STC’s bureau services are also proven to create many intrinsic benefits throughout an organisation. A dedicated bureau service will inevitably find more billing errors as experienced staff regularly check a wider range of invoices and will guarantee continuity of service. Access to accurate energy data can provide significant efficiency gains and reports can be produced for different audiences, such as accounts, procurement and facilities departments, and promote greater engagement with energy management at all levels. These reports provide the basis for capital expenditure business cases and allow the effectiveness of energy efficiency projects to be accurately measured. Imagine not having to process any more paper utility invoices or deal with complicated invoice queries and still have the peace of mind that you are only paying for what you should. A s well as introducing energy-saving products and behavioural controls, savings can also be made by fully validating utility invoices. Suppliers’ tariffs and invoices can be very complex and difficult to understand. As a result it is inevitable that some billing errors will be missed. With flexible and energy only contracts becoming a more popular way of buying energy, additional validation is required to balance reconciliation statements from suppliers and check third party charges. Traditionally, the processing of utility invoices has been a manual process, where paper invoices are entered onto a spreadsheet or energy management software system before being passed to the accounts payable department. If any errors are found in these invoices, the suppliers will have to be contacted to resolve the errors found. Some of these errors can be complex and difficult to explain. The accounts payable department must then enter the same invoices into their accounts software so that they can be paid on time. It is also usual to withhold any invoices with errors from the Making savings on energy expenditure is always on the agenda in finance and energy departments. Alan Little looks at the benefits of fully validating utility bills and streamlining invoice processing Keep an eye on the invoices 34 | ENERGYINBUILDINGS&INDUSTRY | october 2015 payment process, which then leads to reminder bills and sometimes disconnection notices to be received. Invoice validation does not only require rigorous checks against contracted rates, network charges and taxes, but also relies on consumption comparisons and benchmarking against comparable sites. Changedbillingsystems Validation of utility invoices has become even more important since two of the top six energy suppliers changed their billing systems last year, which left many of their customers with either incorrect invoices that may have been paid without realising, or no invoices at all. For some organisations, not receiving billing for a long period of time can cause internal issues with budgeting and accruals, especially if these charges need to be included in service charges. STC have been processing utility invoices for over 20 years and estimate that between 3 and 5 per cent of utility expenditure can be saved by fully validating supplier invoices. Further savings can be achieved by reducing time spent by internal staff dealing with utility issues. These savings can far energy procurement For further information onSTCEnergy enter ONLINE enquiryNo.145 Alan Little is business development manager at STC Energy “Changing to electronic billing and using a system that can import and validate these invoice files provides a much more efficient way of processing utility invoices” outweigh the cost of the energy bureau service cost. A typical bureau cost should be less than 0.5 per cent of the utility expenditure. The utility invoice management process can be dramatically improved by using a specialist energy bureau service that will act as a “back office” on your behalf, offering the software and expertise to find and resolve utility billing errors. A good bureau service provider should also have good relationships with suppliers and have a dedicated account manager to deal with any issues. Changing to electronic billing and using a system that can import