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An update on e-Invoicing in UK public sector procurement

Public sector procurement was on the agenda at the UK National e-Invoicing Forum’s (UKNeF) first meeting of 2014.

Held at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on 3 February, over 20 key representatives from e-Invoicing service providers, industry associations and local government attended the meeting. Nigel Taylor was Chair.

A room full of passionate people discussing a subject that is close to their hearts isn’t always conducive to reaching a consensus. However, that wasn’t the case in this instance as we all recognise the need to prioritise a concerted focus on public sector e-Invoicing. This complements Stephen McPartland MP’s Parliamentary Inquiry into the slow adoption of e-Invoicing by the UK public sector, and the recent European Union endorsement of the Draft Directive on e-Invoicing in public procurement.

A European commitment to e-Invoicing

One of the major updates from the meeting was the news that the European Multi-Stakeholder Forum (EMSF) on e-Invoicing is planning three significant activities in its second term commencing March 2014. These are:

  • Promoting e-Invoicing in public procurement (the UK delegates will lead this Forum activity)
  • A continued focus on exploring potential legal issues and barriers
  • Implementing e-Invoicing standards, particularly the new semantic standard that is now the subject of a Directive and planned CEN (the European Committee for Standardization) project

We also heard that the EU Commission is planning a European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Public Procurement, which will work closely with the existing EMSF on e-Invoicing.

A UK commitment to e-Invoicing

During the meeting we agreed on a number of activities that will promote the adoption of e-Invoicing in the UK public sector. These include:

  • Identifying and supporting relevant government leadership and influencers
  • Acknowledging the needs of SMEs as public sector suppliers
  • Exploring the e-Invoicing potential for local authorities, central government and the NHS
  • Briefing political parties with a view to ensuring that e-Invoicing becomes a shared political objective
  • Creating a public sector e-Invoicing framework and an interoperable eco-system

The results from the UK Parliamentary Inquiry are due to be published in April, which will no doubt add weight to these activities and give the UKNeF plenty to discuss when we convene for our next meeting in April. More importantly, these findings will hopefully help secure a commitment from the main political parties to include public sector e-Invoicing in their 2015 general election manifestos.

The public sector has announced its commitment to e-Invoicing, but it remains to be seen whether this stated resolve will translate into tangible progress. However, with the government acknowledging that it can’t afford to ignore e-Invoicing, we're optimistic about the future.

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