In the paperless age, the age of administrative simplification and the dematerialization of services, the Belgian public authorities are acquiring the tools needed to process digital invoices from the private sector.
Electronic vs paper
- E-invoicing involves more than simply sending PDF fi les by e-mail. It enables advanced computerization: transfer of invoices from one invoicing system to another, data synchronization on both sides, etc.
- Paper is expensive, both to produce and to store. Added to that is the time it takes to encode, process, send or print an invoice. Not to mention the risk of error and the environmental impact.
- In Europe, €240 billion could be saved in six years if the public authorities and businesses adopted e-invoicing. The European Commission wants e-invoices to account for over close up 50% of the total by the year 2020.
- In Belgium,€3.5 billion would be saved annually, or €3.50 per invoice.
Belgian mercurius platform
- To simplify the task for companies that deal with different levels of authority, the Belgian government has deployed the Mercurius centralized e-invoicing platform.
- This is based on the European e-Prior platform, which suppliers can use to invoice public bodies electronically.
- Mercurius is operated by the federal public IT service, Fedict.
- Since July 2014, Serge Libert and his team have been running a pilot phase to adapt e-Prior to the realities of the Belgian situation and test the solution.
- The electronic invoices had to be integrated automatically into Fedcom, the federal public services accounting system.
- Several suppliers sent electronic invoices to the Federal Public Service of the Budget, to Fedict and to the Federal Public Service of the Prime Minister’s office. A total of 17,000 invoices, credit notes, attachments, reminders, etc.
Tested by Proximus
- Thanks to its active participation and experience in the fi eld, Proximus helped to develop Mercurius and pilot the solution.
- This pilot phase revealed excessively cumbersome loading procedures for those issuing invoices. The activation model for new issuers had to be simplified. The solution? PEPPOL, a tried and tested model based on standards that can be used to eliminate the preparatory stages required in the current model.
- Fedict is to continue its eff orts to adopt the system within the federal, regional and local public authorities and bring about its widespread use in the private sector.
- Single access point
- Administrative simplifi cation and computerization
- Time savings: shorter processing time, faster payments
- Reduced margin of error
- Reduced storage space
- Economies of scale
- Limited carbon footprint (dematerialization)
- Better expenditure follow-up and monitoring
- Competitive advantage for Belgium
Serge Libert is Project Manager at Fedict in charge of electronic invoicing and the e-desk, the platform used for the dematerialization of administrative transactions.