Australian councils are under pressure from the ongoing impacts of natural disasters and COVID-19, as well as managing the needs of a rising number of economically disadvantaged households, and an ageing population. To address these issues, councils must boost resilience in administrative operations and budgets, according to a new whitepaper from SAP Concur.
The State of Local Government in Australia whitepaper outlines the current landscape for local government in Australia, including challenges for councils in the new normal.
According to the whitepaper, Australian councils recognise they must build smarter communities due to more people working and shopping locally since COVID-19 and as populations rapidly grow in regional areas. Pressure on councils will continue to grow with revenue declining as a result of ageing and socially disadvantaged populations, coupled with the need to provide more community-based services. Local government agencies have a limited ability to raise more revenue beyond that received through rates, fees and charges. Therefore, the only way that councils can find more money to reinvest in communities is through eliminating inefficiencies associated with manual and semi-automated processing. However, a considered approach is needed to ensure councils maintain high levels of governance and accountability.
Matt Goss, managing director, SAP Concur, Australia and New Zealand, said, “Councils that continue to rely on legacy systems and processes will increasingly be caught up in cost and administrative inefficiencies. Customers expect much greater levels of engagement and service delivery from councils, with manual, legacy processes proving a major block to customer service.”
The SAP Concur whitepaper outlines four key questions that councils must consider when addressing current and emerging challenges.
1. Are internal processes costing too much time and money?
2. What can be done now to streamline and optimise processes?
3. How can councils ensure the security of information now and into the future?
4. What is the impact of emerging legislative and compliance requirements?
The Australian Taxation Office is addressing legacy systems in government by mandating the adoption of e-invoicing for federal government agencies by July 2022. Councils that choose to also adopt e-invoicing will improve internal efficiencies and reduce invoice processing costs. It will also help councils return cashflow to their small business suppliers, and local communities, much faster. Real-time data insights provided through e-invoicing will help councils better monitor and manage services, while meeting both current and emerging governance and legislative requirements. Importantly, e-invoicing will improve security and reduce the risk of fraud, errors and duplicate invoicing.
Matt Goss said, “Councils are likely to become leaner and more agile in the future. This will require greater levels of automation with high levels of IT security, and a transition from process-driven roles to more employment opportunities around strategy and customer service.
“While Australian councils have entered 2021 with a long list of challenges, multiple opportunities will emerge from automation supported by new digital solutions. There is no better time than now to build a local government capability that supports communities to lead the nation’s long-term, sustainable economic recovery.”
The SAP Concur State of Local Government in Australia whitepaper is available < a href=”https://www.concur.com.au/resource-centre/whitepapers/state-of-local-government-in-australia”>here</>.