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Modified: March 18, 2020 10:02am
Created: March 18, 2020 9:58am

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March 18, 2020

Comptroller’s Office Efficiencies Improve Work Flow During Challenging Times, as Paperless Process Ensures Invoice Payment During Workforce Reduction

(ERIE COUNTY, NY) – As Erie County families and businesses continue to manage the challenges associated with Coronavirus, the Erie County Comptroller’s Office has been able to conduct business as usual during an emergency, all because of the implementation of a streamlined, electronic program to pay bills. 

 A pilot program launched last year called “OnBase” ensures invoices get paid, even when government operations are being run with minimal staff.  One of the reasons why Erie County vendors and agencies that conduct business with Erie County will be paid in a timely manner is the implementation of this streamlined and electronic process to pay those invoices.

 “We started the paperless program last year to handle the processing of some 50,000 invoices online.  Because of that, our employees can now process payments off-site.  While the necessity to do this work from home for the time being is new, it has been standard procedure in our office for a while now to process payments online. That is working very effectively.”

 Prior to the modernization of the payment process within Erie County government, there were 53 steps or processes involved in getting vendors paid; from the time an invoice is received from a department to the time a check is cut.  Now with the streamlined, paperless system, we have reduced the number of steps in the Comptroller’s office from 20 to 6 simple, electronic steps allowing a vendor to easily be paid.  The work flow process in other departments handling that invoice has also been reduced as a result.

 “Before I started this electronic, paperless initiative, those invoices were processed slowly, by hand.  Because of that, our employees can now process payments off-site.  It’s been standard procedure in our office.  It is working very effectively.  With so much uncertainty, and with businesses being negatively impacted by COVID-19, the certainty of being paid in prompt fashion from the Erie County Comptroller’s office once we receive that invoice is one less thing they have to worry about,” said Comptroller Mychajliw.

 It had been 30 years since the process was last updated, and Erie County’s Chief Fiscal Officer recognized there was a better way of doing things.  Under the old, antiquated, paper-based payment system, it took an average of two weeks to process a payment.  Now with the electronic system put into place by Comptroller Mychajliw, it takes on average one week to process payments to our vendors and partners in government.

Under the leadership of both Comptroller Mychajliw and Cheryl Mekarski of the Accounts Payable division, the paperless process operates efficiently utilizing SAP, the County’s Enterprise Resource Planning system and OnBase Document Management system software. 

“Before this, it took multiple steps before a check was actually mailed.  That is so typical of government.  It was a great waste of resources.  Paper gets lost in the shuffle.  Departments could not communicate with one another.  A paper invoice could sit on someone’s desk for months and no one else would know.  Now there’s an electronic accountability of making sure vendors are paid quickly.  We can track invoices and pay them like never before,” said Mekarski.

The multiple-step, multiple-person process was time consuming, burdensome, and with today’s technology, completely unnecessary.

This initiative allows all invoices to be sent electronically to the office of Erie County Comptroller via a secure system utilizing the county’s scanning network that was already in place.  Prior to this, all invoices were mailed or hand-delivered.

Modernizing and streamlining the process made it quicker and easier to make payments.  The current epidemic only highlights the necessity for such an efficient operation.  With so many people being told to stay home from work, and social distancing now the norm, the multiple steps, and people that had been required in the past to handle the invoices and make the payments would have become a major issue.

“The last thing people, county departments, or businesses need right now is to be told they have to wait for a payment.  Every day this shutdown continues is another day of lost revenue for so many.  We are living in trying times.  We can at least assure them that through this program, they will get paid in a timely manner,” added Mekarski.

“The ‘old way’ of doing things was archaic and slow.  It was about time Erie County government left the Stone Age and entered the Information Age.  We will continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively.  Our office is accomplishing that because of changes we made, even as our employees work through the global epidemic challenges,” concluded Comptroller Mychajliw.