In 2010, the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS) changed the way it disbursed support funds to service suppliers and principal service suppliers for their clients — youths and people with disabilities.
Increasingly, DHS gave control of a person's individual support packages (ISPs) directly into their hands, to help them experience independence whether at home or in independent living arrangements; learn new skills; and participate in the local community.
The changes meant organisations like Victorian-based not-for-profit youth and disability support service provider, MOIRA, had to provide their clients with transactional and informational support by delivering the bookkeeping and reporting necessary to meet stringent government requirements.
MOIRA provides a range of services, including a Financial Intermediary (FI) service that helps people with disabilities keep track and manage their government-funded ISPs.
Its origins date back to the 1960's where it had the specific goal of providing disabled accommodation support.
By 2003, MOIRA managed service delivery across seven broad areas: financial intermediary service; MOIRACare flexible one-to-one support services; supported accommodation services; case management and brokerage support; outreach services; MOIRA Youth Services; and MOIRA Interchange.
Processing the documents
The non-profit was contracted by Victoria's Department of Human Services three years ago to use government-allocated funds for approved equipment and services.
According to Tony Sweeney, deputy CEO, MOIRA Disability and Youth Services, as the sole supplier of financial intermediary services to DHS state-wide, MOIRA pays the invoices for the clients.
"We provide transactional reporting in monthly statements to service users and a web interface for those people who want to see their transactions immediately," he says.
"We provide DHS with monthly reports of client information such as where people are up to in their expenditure compared to their overall budget and quarterly key performance indicator (KPI) reports regarding our quality of service, such as how long it takes MOIRA to pay invoices."
Before its contractual agreement with DHS, MOIRA had a low technology based system in dealing with the support offered to its clients and in-house.
According to Sweeney the capacity for data can be daunting. During the 2012-2013 financial year the organisation took close to 11,000 phone calls; sent 4,300 letters; produced 24,500 monthly statements; sent 15,200 external emails and received 9,400; and sent about 10,000 internal emails.
"In the past, we had a low tech system, mostly paper based. People would be instructed on how to pay for the services required and in return provide receipts back to MOIRA, which would then be filed away," notes Sweeney.
Once MOIRA started working with DHS, the service provider needed a product to help manage its workflow, filter, control reporting, and data access.
"DHS's approached to stringency had two angles," he says. "The management of spending from the ISP model, for which the FI service contracted to MOIRA is a supporting business function, has in-built flexibility for clients."
"This meant MOIRA didn't have a spend-type filtering function (it does filter spend amount) but we do bring potential outliers on spend requests and type to DHS's attention for a decision by them."
Sweeney says the second angle is probity of the outsourced arrangement with MOIRA.
The service provider's controls are externally audited by the respective auditing standard for government outsourced services.
Sweeney said this audit aims to provide DHS with comfort controls that are in place and functioning to an extent to which the Victorian government would operate were they to effectively operate the function themselves.
This includes extensive data collection, from documentation to the application of spending filters (amount to package at a point in time), to the recording of all liaisons with all parties relating to individual service users.
"Contractually, MOIRA owns the data, but during and any time subsequent to contract, DHS has the right to access any and all of this information," says Sweeney.
"DHS are also provided with reports and raw data on spending patterns to individual service user to spending type [what was bought, how much, when and from whom] for analysis.
"MOIRA is also required to immediately report any breaches, either privacy or security, or where a spending request is off-plan."
In order to meet "the square peg in a round hole" needs, the service provider developed a tightly integrated IT environment based on a Sage 300 ERP solution and a Sage CRM system.
The ERP supports the financial transactions and reporting side of the business, while the CRM helps MOIRA to better manage client relationships and ensures that all client interactions are documented.
For MOIRA, the product had to be flexible enough to be constantly tweaked, according to DHS' needs.
"There is no way that normally you can build a system and go live in four weeks," he says.
"We had to work around DHS's needs and temporarily have a system that was a short-term build until we could get the proper system tested and integrated into our system.
"It wasn't the dream way of doing things, but we didn't have a previous model to build on as this was a new type of service."
The system has been in place since 2012, but alterations are constantly made where the contract is changed and not from the need of the software.
"Where we find a better way to deliver upon a process outcome, say in the way MOIRA and DHS handle an off-plan alert, the system is changed," Sweeney says.
"Similarly, when DHS restructured from eight divisions to five, last year the system was changed to accommodate this."
Still dealing with paperwork
The next stage for MOIRA, according to Sweeney, is to find an optical recognition solution to help the organisation deal with all the paperwork from invoices and forms.
"Service users complete a request for reimbursement form, which is scanned into the system," he says.
"The supporting receipts are checked, a MOIRA staffer confirms on the system this check has happened and receipts are physically archived [not scanned], for reference if necessary.
"Invoices for payment are scanned onto the system. On a day to day basis we have staff that sit and physically scan in hundreds of documents."
The search for a product to do this automatically and not manually, according to Sweeney "hasn't yet proven to be viable".