“Having to process thousands of cheques each month used to be a time-consuming task for Norfolk County Council. Now, thanks to Solchar, the job is completed quicker and more cost-effectively.”
“Until relatively recently, details of cheques received were logged manually; a time consuming and costly process that was prone to human error. It was widely recognised that automating the system would allow us to streamline the process considerably and provide a more efficient service to our customers.”
Income Development Manager
Norfolk County Council
The county of Norfolk is home to hundreds of picturesque villages, dozens of historic market towns, seaside resorts such as Great Yarmouth and the city of Norwich. Norfolk county council serves a growing population of over 850,000 and is responsible for delivering a wide range of services to its residents.
The processing of income for services such as home care, residential care and children’s services is one of the responsibilities of Norfolk County Council’s Department of Finance, located at the County Hall in Norwich.
Here, thousands of cheques and remittance slips are sent in to be processed each month, ready to be dispatched by courier to Northampton. In October 2011, the department processed 2726 paper payments worth £3.7m, representing 28 per cent of the overall income collected.
Carol Dawson, income development manager for Norfolk County Council, says: “Until relatively recently, details of cheques received were logged manually; a time consuming and costly process that was prone to human error. It was widely recognised that automating the system would allow us to streamline the process considerably and provide a more efficient service to our customers.”
In order to ensure the efficient processing of paper payments, it was vital the council chose a system that would not only improve efficiency and productivity, but also provide greater financial control and improve security. In addition, the council needed to satisfy the demands of record-keeping and compliance, while ensuring a high-level of customer service at all times.
In view of its criteria, and having compared a number of different companies, Norfolk County Council selected Solchar, a specialist technology company providing cost-saving solutions that automate cheque, remittance and voucher processing. Solchar’s Transaction Journal ideally suited to the council’s needs.
Using scanner technology, Transaction Journal automatically stores an image and captures printed and written information from cheques, postal orders and other credits using a pre-designated workflow that provides configurable data input, verification, balancing and approvals processing.
“Now, instead of manually inputting cheque details such as value and invoice number on to an Excel sheet, we are able to automatically produce a listing of all values received and the customer accounts they relate to,” says Dawson. “The details are then entered into our own Oracle system to produce a receipt per account.”
The inherent flexibility of Transaction Journal means it can be set up as stand-alone function on a single designated laptop or desktop computer, or at a teller service point, with a number of options to onward process cheque and credit slip data.
By placing the system on a local network, Transaction Journal can also allow any number of scanning stations and administrative points to feed into a centralised image archive and SQL database. This facilitates processing that takes place in one location, such as the mailroom, and where verification, reconciliation or other supervisory tasks are carried out elsewhere.
The benefits of the new system have proved invaluable to Norfolk County Council. Since automating data and image gathering the council has not only reduced time-consuming manual processes it has also satisfied one of the main drivers for implementation.
Dawson explains: “Our agreement with the Co-operative Bank stipulated that if any cheques went missing in transit, we were duty-bound to honour those cheques. Having a digital record of the paper payments processed means we are now able to recover from the position of any lost cheques, while scans also mean we can highlight lost document points.”
“The council has been able to significantly improve the service we provide to residents throughout Norfolk.”
Income Development Manager
Norfolk County Council
The new system has allowed Norfolk county council to make significant improvements in security too, establishing procedures and permissions that help deter or minimise the opportunity of fraud. Records, data and images of transactions established at point of receipt are available throughout the entire process, while a strong audit trail with access to payment information for queries and problem transactions was also created.
Furthermore, with data easily retrieved to assist with Suspicious Activity Reports and Production and Accounting Monitoring Orders, the system has also contributed to better record-keeping and compliance.
Dawson concludes: “Overall, we are delighted with the new system. An additional benefit is the ease with which transaction details are accessed in the event of queries, which means the council has been able to significantly improve the service we provide to residents throughout Norfolk.”