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What is an Expense Report? How to Create One?

Vlad Falin

January 19, 2023

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One crucial aspect of business finance management is knowing how the money of your organization is being spent.  You can’t paint a complete picture of your organization’s financial health without understanding how the money is flowing first. This clarity is precisely what effective expense reports provide. When properly maintained, expense reports give you a clear perspective over your organization's finances. 

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into:

  • The Definition of Expense Reports: What are they and why are they crucial?
  • The Importance of Accurate Expense Reporting: How does it affect your organization's financial health?
  • Creating Effective Expense Reports: We'll explore two practical methods to craft accurate and insightful expense reports, empowering you to make informed financial decisions.

What is an expense report?

An expense report is a crucial tool in business finance management. It is a categorized and itemized list of expenses made on behalf of the organization. These reports assist employers or finance teams in determining what money was spent, what was purchased, and how much of the expenditure is eligible for reimbursement.

The purpose of an expense report is to track the expenditures of a business and expense forms should include all purchases necessary to operate a business, such as food, gas, or parking.

It is most commonly used by employees when requesting reimbursement for expenditures. 

When expenditure amounts exceed a certain threshold, receipts are usually attached to the form. 

Employees are paid the requested amounts after the employer examines their submissions for accuracy and validity. 

In this case, the employer will be able to recognize accounting profit and taxable profit based on the reimbursements.

Business expense reports are usually generated on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis to track business spending:

  • It is important for a company to maintain monthly and quarterly expense reports to track all of its purchases during that period. The reports are used to determine whether spending within the organization's budget is within its limits and to identify areas for cost reductions.
  • Yearly expense reports are in turn used for tax purposes. A company's tax returns are prepared using its annual expense reports.

It is also possible to use expense reports to detail expenditures made against an initial employee advance. 

Employers still record employee expenses as business expenses, but they do not reimburse employees; instead, they deduct the expenditures from employee advances.

Why use an expense report?

Expense reports are essential for small businesses, enabling a clear tracking of business expenses often paid out-of-pocket by employees. These reports detail all reimbursable expenses and require attaching receipts for accurate verification. Once reviewed for accuracy, employees are reimbursed accordingly. Additionally, small business owners and accountants use these reports to analyze total expenses over specific periods, employing accounting tools to assess whether costs align with budget expectations

The following are some benefits of generating a expense report:

1. Facilitates efficient expense tracking and cost control

Analyzing expense report data is the ideal starting point for cost control. This allows you to track your firm's spending over time by giving you a clearer picture of what your money is being spent on. 

Additionally, you can analyze how much your employees are spending on different expense categories, determine which categories are driving up costs, and implement strategies to reduce or eliminate them. In addition to identifying loopholes in expense policies, these reports can help you decide which vendors to prioritize and which ones to let go by identifying loopholes in expense policies.

Tracking expenses over time allows you to identify whether a particular expense category (such as transportation or hotels) is increasing costs excessively. As a result, you can strategize on how to reduce or eliminate these costs.

2. Helps with budgeting

A business's budget is essential to its smooth operation. A detailed and accurate expense report can help your organization develop a strong and informed financial plan. As a result, various departments and projects can be allocated more appropriate budgets. You can maintain your business's financial security long-term by consistently tracking expenses in order to ensure that different departments and projects adhere to their budgets.

3. Makes for accurate reimbursements

In the event that an employee paid for business expenses out of pocket, they would expect a fair and accurate reimbursement. 

Also, you want to make sure that the request is fair so that you don't pay more than you are owed. 

It allows organizations to determine if a claim is legitimate faster by providing employees with a standardized process to learn what can and cannot be expensed. 

In addition to providing solid evidence of when, where, and how expenses were incurred, itemized expense reports with receipts do the same for proving compliance with your organization's expense policy.

4. Simplifies tax deductions

Tax deductions are available for many business expenses incurred by employees at work. In order to claim expenses as deductions, you must properly record them and provide proof that they were actually incurred. 

Business owners sometimes use their bank account or corporate card statements to keep track of their deductible expenses. It's important to keep in mind that these statements may not include all expenses. 

In contrast, expense reports simplify the process of keeping track and deducting deductible expenses during tax season. The finance team simply needs to add up all the expenses that can be deducted and enter them into the appropriate tax forms.

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What should be in the expense report?

By creating an expense report, you (or your accountant) can easily add up all expenses so that they can be entered into your tax return. 

Some crucial elements to include in an expense report include:

  • The name, department, designation, and contact information of the employee who submitted the report.
  • The date and amount of each expense (corresponding to the date and amount on the receipt)
  • What type of expense is being incurred (meals, mileage, internet, etc.)?
  • Vendor or merchant who sold the item
  • If applicable, the client or project for which it was purchased
  • From your accounting chart, determine the account where the expense should be charged
  • A description of each expense in more detail
  • Expense subtotals and total costs, including taxes, for each type of expense
  • (If applicable) a deduction for prior advances made to the employee

How to create expense reports

Companies most often generate and track expense reports using spreadsheets, templates, or expense reporting software. 

You can generate expense reports in two different ways: manually through templates, or through Pluto. 

Manual expense reporting with custom templates

To make the task of preparing expense reports easier for employees, some organizations provide customizable, ready-made templates to download and use. To report expenses in this way, follow these steps:

  1. The employee outlines their name, contact information, designation, the dates covered, and the purpose of the report in the appropriate fields.
  2. Following that, they determine how many rows and columns the expense report should contain. For example, some firms have mandatory columns and categories that correspond to the expense categories and columns in tax returns.
  3. In the report, expenses should be listed chronologically with brief descriptions, with the most recent expense appearing at the end.
  4. In order to calculate the grand total, the employee must first calculate the subtotals for each expense category followed by the total for all expenses. Subtotals assist the finance department in analyzing expenses.
  5. Finally, all expenses mentioned above must be accompanied by receipts. The receipts can either be scanned or photocopied depending on whether the report is being submitted digitally.
  6. Reports are submitted to the line manager or department manager for validation and fraud detection.
  7. As soon as they approve the report, it is forwarded to the finance department for reimbursement.

Automated expense reporting

The use of expense report templates is a quick way to keep track of expenses for small businesses. 

The problem arises when your business grows, at which point the process of filling out a report, even if using a template, can become a time-consuming task. 

When multiple departments process several expense reports a day, it is important to switch to an automated expense reporting solution like Pluto, so that these reports can be tracked and managed more efficiently.

  1. Pluto enables employees to create expense reports on the fly. Their receipts need to be captured digitally or filled out in the mandatory fields within the application. 
  2. By grouping all the expense claims together, a report can be created and submitted effortlessly. 
  3. Pluto also provides virtual and physical cards, so the expense data are booked straight into the platform for later use.
  4. Line managers and department managers review reports to identify policy violations, fraud, duplicate expenses, or warnings about them. 

How to simplify the expense reporting process

While expense reports are important when it comes to gaining an overall view of the way money is moving, creating them can be a hassle when your organization incurs too many expenses to keep track of manually.

However, there are a few ways that you can simplify your expense reporting. These include:

Switching to expense reporting software

The first step in expense management is to file expense reports. You must also maintain policy compliance, reimburse expenses on time, and conduct successful expense audits to stay on top of your business expenses. 

This is where Pluto can help. By providing multiple ways to record expenses on the go, we eliminate the need for manual data entry and paperwork. You can benefit from an expense management solution by:

  • Generating and submitting reports automatically;
  • The ability to support multiple expense policies and spend limits;
  • Eliminates policy violations and fraudulent expenditures
  • Analytical reports and intuitive dashboards increase spend visibility

With all of these features, you can save time and money while keeping your employees productive.

Make expenses easy to report and track

Provide your employees with Pluto real-time reporting system where they can track expenses, submit receipts, and report business expenses. 

Business expense reports can be updated in real-time using online or smartphone apps, and receipt images can be added for total transparency, if you use digital technology. 

Time-stamping and expense classification make it easy to catch fraud, which is beneficial to both you and your employees.

Embrace mobile devices

By scanning receipts and automatically extracting and reporting the key data, Pluto saves your employees' time and improves their expense reporting accuracy. 

It makes perfect sense for you to use an app that allows your employees to track expenses easily from their phones since most (if not all) of your employees spend a lot of time on their smartphones. 

Set up a routine audit

Ensure that you also incorporate a routine audit process into your business expense report policies. Your expense report should be audited quarterly, biannually, or annually, depending on the number of expenditures your employees incur. 

You can catch fraud cases through audits, but you can also understand where the biggest expenditures are and reduce them. 

Routine audits can also help you improve management and tracking of your business expenses by letting you know how to refine your reporting process.

Automated expense reporting with Pluto

Pluto allows you to issue virtual cards and physical cards and that immediately solves two things:

  • No need for petty cash or out of pocket expenses;
  • Real-time reporting of all the incurred expenses;

The spend management system allows you to issues cards for a particular employee, vendor, or even expense type. 

It also allows you to set the limits on the go, and see all the expenses in the real-time report. All that, while your employees can easily categorize the expenses and upload the physical receipts just by taking a photo on their mobile device. 

Reporting expenses manually is very time consuming, but having them all digitally stored and automatically reported solves the problem. 

Key takeaways

Expense reports are a crucial aspect of the financial bookkeeping of any business organization. Not only are they important for knowing how much money is being spent by the company, whether as a whole or for a specific project, but also for the purpose of reimbursing employees for business-related expenses. 

Plus, they also help you with budgeting, tax reporting, and cost control measures.

You can easily create an expense report using a premade or personalized template, but you’ll have a much easier time in the long run if you start using Pluto.

Find out how much your business can save with Pluto

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Guide to Accounts Payable Audit With Step-by-Step Process and Checklist

Your employee receives the vendor invoice and goes to the department manager and procurement department for three-way matching — invoice, purchase order, and goods receipt. Once approved, the finance department prepares to clear the payment. Finally, the accounting department makes the journal entries and updates accounting records. This is an end-to-end accounts payable process.

But it isn't as simple and straightforward. The chances of errors increase with various stakeholders involved. These range from manual data entry mistakes and invoice duplications to missed discounts, late payments, and inaccurate coding. This intricate process further results in unapproved invoices, incomplete documentation, vendor communication gaps, and mismatched purchase orders.

Hence, it becomes imperative to conduct regular checks. The inspections look into the internal processes to identify loopholes and act as an early sign. This post will discuss what an accounts payable audit is and how you can prepare for it.

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What is an Accounts Payable Audit?

An accounts payable (AP) audit is a type of accounting audit that investigates a company's accounts payable records, statements, and processes for potential errors, fraud, and non-compliance.  

In an AP audit, auditors track AP transactions from beginning to end, including the purchase order, invoice, approval steps, payment, and reconciliation, ensuring that everything has been recorded and documented correctly. 

The auditors assess the internal records and documentation for the following:

  • Validity - Are all invoices and transactions verified as genuine, preventing payment for unauthorized items?
  • Completeness - Are the invoices, purchase orders, and delivery receipts recorded correctly to avoid missing any payments?
  • Accuracy - Is every invoice amount cross-checked against corresponding purchase orders and delivery receipts to prevent payment errors?
  • Compliance - Are the accounts payable documents compliant with tax and company policies to avoid penalties and ensure ethical financial practices?

Further, the auditors inspect the internal processes for the following: 

  • Segregation of Duties -Are responsibilities clearly divided to prevent conflicts and maintain a system of checks and balances
  • Approvals - Are transaction approval processes in place, ensuring compliance with policies and accountability?
  • Access Controls - Are access controls effectively implemented to protect sensitive information, preventing unauthorized access and potential breaches?

By addressing these questions, the auditors find areas to improve and strengthen the accounts payable system. This process provides a thorough picture of financial operations, identifying weaknesses that could affect accuracy, efficiency, and compliance.

How to Conduct an Accounts Payable Audit

Before establishing an audit plan, you need three things to prepare for an accounts payable audit:

1. Stakeholder Input

Schedule meetings with key stakeholders such as finance managers, approvers, and document handlers. Ask for their insights on pain points, challenges, and expectations related to the accounts payable process. Document their feedback and use it to tailor the audit plan. It helps to address specific concerns and improve efficiency.

2. Documents Repository 

Conduct a comprehensive review of the current document storage system. Ensure all relevant documents are organized, labeled, and stored in a secure, easily accessible location. If you are using digital AP software for the repository, validate that it has proper version control and is updated. 

Checklist of Documents Required

  • Vendor Invoices
  • Purchase Orders
  • Goods/Services Receipts
  • Vendor Contracts and Agreements
  • Payment Records
  • Expense Reports
  • Vendor Statements
  • Credit Memos
  • Internal Controls and Policies
  • General Ledger Entries
  • Tax Documents
  • Bank Reconciliation Statements
  • Vendor Information
  • Access Logs
  • Expense Allocation Documentation
  • Documentation of Disputed Invoices
  • Employee Authorization Forms
  • Proof of Payment
  • Inventory Records (if applicable)
  • Regulatory Compliance Documentation

3. Access Control

Review and update access controls to restrict access to sensitive financial data. Work with IT and security teams to ensure only authorized personnel can access critical systems and repositories. Also, periodically verify user access levels and promptly revoke access for individuals who no longer require it. This helps maintain a secure and controlled environment.

4-Step AP Audit Procedure

With all the documents ready, inputs gathered, and access shared, you can initiate the AP audit procedure. It includes the following steps:

Audit Plan

Establish an audit plan to define the scope of the audit, specifying the departments and time frame under consideration. Assign audit team members and allocate necessary resources for the audit. Identify potential risks such as errors or compliance issues.

Here is what an audit plan looks like.

Audit Plan

Objective: The primary aim of this audit is to express an opinion on the fairness of XYZ Company's financial statements in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Scope: The audit will cover the financial statements of XYZ Company for the year ended December 31, 20XX, including the balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, and accompanying notes.

Audit Team: The audit team will consist of the lead auditor, staff auditors, and specialists as needed. The team members will be assigned specific tasks based on their expertise and the areas to be audited.

Audit Approach: The audit will be conducted as per the auditing standards and guidelines issued by the relevant regulatory bodies. The approach will include substantive testing, tests of controls, analytical procedures, and other audit procedures as deemed necessary.

Materiality Threshold: The materiality threshold for the financial statements is set at $XXX. Any misstatements or discrepancies exceeding this threshold will be considered material.

Risk Assessment: The audit team will conduct a risk assessment to identify and assess the risks of material misstatement in the financial statements. The evaluation will consider both inherent and control risks.

Audit Procedures:

  • Cash and Cash Equivalents:
  • Confirm bank balances and reconciliations
  • Test cash transactions and cutoff procedures
  • Review bank statements and related agreements
  • Revenue Recognition:
  • Test sales transactions and revenue recognition policies
  • Review contracts and agreements for completeness and accuracy
  • Verify the accuracy of recorded revenue
  • Inventory:
  • Observe the physical inventory count
  • Test inventory valuation methods
  • Review inventory turnover and obsolescence
  • Accounts Payable:
  • Confirm outstanding payables with vendors
  • Test completeness and accuracy of recorded payables
  • Review payment terms and agreements
  • Fixed Assets:
  • Verify the existence and valuation of fixed assets
  • Test depreciation calculations
  • Review additions and disposals

Documentation: All audit procedures, findings, and conclusions will be documented in working papers, including supporting evidence and references to applicable accounting standards.

Reporting: A draft of an audit report will be prepared for management review before issuing the final report. The report will include the auditor's opinion on the financial statements and any relevant disclosures.

Fieldwork

With the audit plan in place, the audit team moves on to a detailed examination of the accounts payable process. Simultaneously, it also engages with key stakeholders to get valuable insights into the practical aspects of the AP process. In this stage, it ascertains the effectiveness of internal processes in safeguarding against potential risks. It performs the following assessments: 

  • Verify completeness and accuracy of invoices, purchase orders, and payment records
  • Match invoices with purchase orders and delivery receipts
  • Check for discrepancies in amounts or quantities
  • Evaluate the adherence of the approval process to established policies
  • Confirm proper authorization before payment processing
  • Review vendor master file for accuracy and up-to-date information
  • Implement checks to identify and rectify duplicate payments
  • Ensure compliance with internal policies, industry regulations, and legal requirements
  • Review accruals and prepaid expenses for accurate reflection of the financial statements

  • Verify the accuracy of data entry in the financial system

However, an audit team struggles the most with finding the proper documents. Either the internal team fails to provide the specific invoices, purchase requests, and purchase orders, or it gets lost in the pile of documents. This slowdown in the audit process increases the risk of oversight and incomplete scrutiny, compromising accuracy and thoroughness.

The best way to fix this leak is to go for accounts payable automation.

With AP automation, you streamline approvals and payments and create a centralized hub for bookkeeping. Instead of manual record-keeping, the tool automatically captures and extracts all necessary documents. Its integration capabilities ensure consistent data across the organization, simplifying data management and retrieval.

Audit Report

Finally, the audit team prepares a detailed audit report, including an executive summary, methodology, findings, and recommendations. The report provides a comprehensive overview, detailing identified issues and areas of strength.

To read an audit report and implement it effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Involve the audit committee, executive director, and senior financial staff in reviewing the report.
  2. Identify significant issues, such as financial conflicts of interest, and address them promptly. Classify minor concerns, such as operational inefficiencies and technological deficiencies, for resolution over several months.
  3. Consider the list of best practices and custom recommendations provided by the auditors. Use them to plan and prioritize your organization's next steps.
  4. Evaluate the "scope, nature, and timing" of the audit conducted by the audit team to assess the auditors' efficiency in utilizing resources without redundancy. Explore ways to make the audit process more efficient for the next cycle.

Regardless of the audit cycle, continuously assess and improve auditing procedures. Explore options such as accounts payable automation, process optimizations, and strategic partnerships.

Follow-up

During this stage, the audit team monitors the implementation of recommended changes. It involves continuous communication with stakeholders to address concerns or questions arising from the audit report. The team also ensures that the proposed improvements are effectively integrated into the organization's processes.

Preparing for Your Next Accounts Payable Audit

To make your next audit easier for the auditors and the internal team, address past findings and consider adopting accounts payable automation for efficiency. By addressing previous audit issues, you proactively improve your internal processes by resolving identified issues. It builds a culture of accountability and responsibility, laying the groundwork for a more efficient and effective audit process in the future.

An AP automation software becomes a central hub for the documentation, streamlining the intricate process. Automated document capture and retrieval ensure swift access, minimizing errors. Also, it highlights areas for improvement, enabling the team to address issues beforehand. 

As a result, audits become more streamlined, faster, and less stressful, ensuring strict adherence to rules and optimal functionality. We have curated a list of top AP automation software to help you pick the right one. Check the top 7 accounts payable automation solutions that simplify the accounts payable process and audits.

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Top 7 Accounts Payable Automation Software

An invoice has landed in your inbox. As soon as it arrived, a team member cleared the payment. Later, when another team member came across it, they made the payment again. This is a common scenario of duplicate payments that results in cash leakage. Invoices are not consolidated. There is no proper approval workflow, and stakeholders lack visibility. 

Overall, managing accounts payable (AP) becomes a nightmare. 

An automation tool solves these bottlenecks and provides a centralized platform for invoice management and accounts payable. An accounts payable automation software automates invoice capture and retrieval to consolidate all the information on a unified platform. You get real-time visibility and control over your payables. 

As a result, you establish better vendor relationships and supply chain management without impacting cash flows.

This post will cover 7 AP automation software to help you choose the right automation partner.  

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Top 7 accounts payable automation software 

Here are the top 7 AP automation software. You can pick one of these to automate your accounts payable based on your company size and needs.

1. Pluto

account payable automation software by pluto

Pluto is an accounts payable software that transforms your AP processes by simplifying bill processing. From enabling GRN matching to setting fully customizable multi-layer approval workflows, it is the best AP automation software to manage your vendor payments. 

Key Features:

  • Facilitates three-way GRN matching with purchase orders and item-based matching
  • Offers a flexible approval engine capable of managing intricate hierarchies without requiring technical expertise
  • Enables multi-layer invoice approvals with policies to align with your company's structure
  • Ability to upload invoices easily via WhatsApp images and emails to speed up the receipt capture process
  • Facilitates optical character recognition (OCR) technology to retrieve invoice information, including tax and general ledger (GL) codes
  • Offers a centralized dashboard to gather bills in one place and track the status to avoid double payments
  • Consolidates approved invoices in a single window to highlight pending bills and avoid delays
  • Raises alerts for upcoming payments, enables scheduling payments in advance and automates invoices 
  • Allows you to seamlessly carry out bulk local and international wire transfers for easy payment clearing through their treasury partners.
  • Enables you to split payments for different tax and GL codes, departments, etc. 
  • Provides vendor-specific corporate cards to control budgets and detect irrelevant expenses
  • Supports ERP integration to synchronize your vendors, purchase orders, and bills
  • Integrates with accounting software such as Oracle, NetSuite, Zoho, Quickbooks, Wafeq, Xero, etc.
  • Provides a complete audit trail of the process to ensure visibility at each step
  • Shows real-time analytics to facilitate deep insights for supporting budget control

Pricing: 

Free to get started 

Pros:

  • Free to get started!
  • Enables branch and subsidiary-level spend tracking (not offered by other platforms)
  • Offers up to 2% cashback on all non-AED transactions 
  • Independent PCI DSS Level 1 certification for advanced security
  • SSO/SAML Capabilities for Enterprises
  • Better Forex rates than most local banks 

Cons:

  • Integrates with all other major ERPs except Tally
  • Slightly longer on-boarding due to corporate card offering

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2. Tipalti

AP automation software by tipalti

Tipalti is an automation tool that supports end-to-end AP processes. It streamlines accounts payables and facilitates global payments in local currencies for various recipients, from suppliers to freelancers. The cloud-based platform helps finance teams manage payments without losing visibility and control. 

Key Features:

  • Supports supplier onboarding and vetting to ensure supplier reliability and trustworthiness
  • Integrates with ERP and accounting systems to help with reconciliation reporting
  • Uses OCR to scan, capture, match, and process invoice data to reduce manual errors
  • Provides built-in approval workflows and payment scheduling 
  • Offers invoice processing, including two-way and three-way purchase order matching and approval to avoid overpayments
  • Assists AP processes for subsidiaries and entities

Pricing: 

Starts at $129 per month per user for the platform fee and charges for additional features separately

Pros:

  • Can manage supplier bank account details in a secure environment

Cons:

  • Cannot use it for prepayment invoices on inventory purchases with the ERP system
  • High foreign currency exchange fees
  • Tax forms can be difficult to fill out and very difficult if you do not speak English

3. Airbase

AP automation platform by Airbase

Airbase manages global AP processes. It focuses on ensuring compliance and syncing with your accounting tool to streamline payment. It is an automation solution for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and large enterprises with 100-5,000 employees.

Key Features: 

  • Offers OCR to populate details, including GL category, date, amount, and purpose
  • Supports onboarding with a self-service vendor portal and custom questionnaires
  • Has a centralized dashboard with all key information about the invoice to avoid friction 
  • Accepts invoices from email or vendor portal across all subsidiaries
  • Offers automated approval workflows based on multiple parameters, such as vendor, amount, GL category, etc.
  • Enables three-way invoice matching to ensure compliance and reduce wasted spend
  • Real-time audit trail with receipts, notes, and documentation for transparency

Pricing: 

Request a custom quote

Pros:

  • Intuitive and easy to use; no training or previous knowledge required

Cons:

  • The mobile app is slow and takes time to load pages 
  • SSO-based login is not smooth
  • Not suitable for complex branch-level approvals and expenses

4. Ramp

Ramp's AP automation solution

Ramp is an accounts payable solution for managing payments and business expenses. It automates bill entries, approvals, and payments while offering complete visibility and control. By tracking each AP step from data recording to approvals, it simplifies payment processing and takes the burden off teams. 

Key Features:

  • Uses artificial intelligence (AI) to extract key details from invoices to offer accuracy and eliminate data-entry errors
  • Identifies duplicate invoices and helps with two-way matching to purchase orders
  • Offers custom approval workflows to minimize errors and ensure timely payments 
  • Provides a unified dashboard with visibility into the status of invoices
  • Consolidates multiple payment options, such as check, card, same-day ACH, or international wire
  • Integrates with accounting solutions, such as QuickBooks, Xero, Oracle NetSuite, Sage, etc. for auto-sync bill pay transactions
  • Supports international payment processing in multiple currencies 
  • Tracks vendor data and transactions for easy reporting and data-driven decisions

Pricing: 

Three pricing packages—free or basic features, $15 per user per month for Ramp Plus, and custom quote for enterprises with features like enterprise ERP integration, custom implementation, and local card issuance

Pros:

  • Works with multiple subsidiaries
  • Offers cash back on credit card purchases made using VISA cards

Cons:

  • Can’t unmatch an incorrectly matched invoice (invoice to credit card)
  • Approval routing can only be set on the vendor level, not the department level
  • Limitations in syncing repayments

5. Bill

Accounts payable automation tool by Bill

Bill is an accounts payable solution for SMBs to control payables, receivables, expenses, and all corporate expenses. It allows businesses to streamline scattered AP processes into a single platform and gain more control over their finances. 

Key Features:

  • Enables custom approval workflows for minimal hassle
  • Automates purchase order workflows with the option for automated two-way and three-way matching
  • Automates receipt matching, categorization, and expense reporting, decreasing administrative tasks
  • Syncs with all major accounting systems like QuickBooks, Sage, Intacct, and NetSuite
  • OCR auto-populates invoices for data entry
  • Provides bulk payments of approved invoices with payment choices, such as ACH, credit cards, checks, and international wire transfers
  • Offers audit trail of any changes or actions related to the invoice on a single page

Pricing: 

Provides a free trial and essentials pack starting at $45 for six standard user roles. Its team and corporate pack are for $55 and $79, respectively. Enterprises need to request a custom quote.

Pros:

  • One-click swift payments
  • Minimum training required
  • Easy-to-use mobile app

Cons:

  • Customer support is difficult to initiate, slow, and unresponsive
  • Frequent changes in the interface create confusion for users

6. Procurify

Procurify's AP automation software

Procurify streamlines AP reconciliation, offering a straightforward solution for financial operations. From catalog management to custom user controls, it helps to track the procurement process in real time. Its no-code configuration allows for a prompt deployment in under six weeks, making it a suitable choice for mid-market to enterprise organizations.

Key Features:

  • Creates, tracks, and maintains an audit trail of all procurement transactions for transparency and compliance
  • Ensures that requested items are approved against budgets before procurement
  • Integrates with trusted vendors through punchout catalogs to streamline the ordering process
  • Syncs bills and completes bill payments directly with platforms like QuickBooks Online, NetSuite, and other major accounting systems
  • Supports OCR  technology to extract data from invoices

Pricing: 

Starts at $2000/month with a custom pricing tier

Pros:

  • Ability to upload different invoices in the same PO and group invoices

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer payment services, so you need to carry out payments on a different platform
  • Physical inventory has to be tracked outside Procurify

7. ZipHq

Accounts payable automation by ZipHQ

Ziphq is an end-to-end procure to pay software designed to streamline the entire procurement process, from purchase order to payment. It caters to businesses of all sizes — startups, mid-size companies, and enterprises with no-code configuration and deployment in under six weeks.

Key Features:

  • Offers vendor cards to automate recurring and one-time payments
  • Centralizes purchasing workflows, providing real-time visibility into the AP process
  • Facilitates automatic purchase order matching, ensuring invoice accuracy and timely payments
  • Provides automated, no-code workflows, referencing all stakeholders in the approval chain
  • Allows employees to comment on invoices and tag stakeholders, ensuring everyone has the context and visibility needed
  • Automates renewal planning with workflows initiated well ahead of deadlines, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions
  • Supports vendor payments in 140+ countries and 40+ currencies
  • Integrates with ERP, ensuring quick and easy reconciliation, even for complex, multi-subsidiary operations

Pricing: 

Request a demo quote

Pros:

  • Provides various customization options to configure internal processes

Cons:

  • Localized to the USA market
  • Takes over five days to settle vendor payments 
  • Can’t bulk upload documents

How to choose the right accounts payable automation software?

User-friendliness

Select software that is adaptable and user-friendly, with intuitive trigger-based workflows and a clean interface, ensuring ease of use without excessive reliance on support for basic tasks.

Versatile payment capabilities

Choose a solution that supports a broad spectrum of payment methods, including the ability to issue vendor-specific cards for secure and speedy payments, a feature not commonly found in many platforms.

Accurate Invoice Processing

Opt for software with OCR technology to enhance invoice processing speed and accuracy, capable of handling invoices from various sources and integrating them into a centralized database for reduced manual entry.

Efficient Approval Workflows

The software should include a straightforward, no-code workflow builder that can handle complex hierarchies, essential for large organizations with intricate approval processes.

Seamless System Integration

Ensure the software integrates well with existing accounting systems to automate data entry and maintain synchronized records, which is crucial for effective financial management.

Advanced Reporting Features

Reporting functionality that offers insights into spending patterns and department-specific expenditures is vital. The software should provide a robust reporting dashboard with options for deeper analytics.

Choosing the right accounts payable automation software 

Implementing accounts payable software will support your procurement process only when you carefully pick an option that provides flexibility, visibility, and security without losing on functionality. 

Imagine software that makes it easy to clear payments but doesn’t settle payments for days on the vendor’s end. Contrarily, consider an option your legal or IT team is skeptical of implementing. 

That is why, at Pluto, we focus on simplifying processes and cutting all the chaos without risking security, flexibility, or functionality. We simplify accounts payable by syncing with your payment gateways for faster payments at better forex rates than banks. You get a PCI DSS Level 1 certified solution that provides you with bank-grade security. 

So, book a demo and learn more about how you can optimize your entire procurement process.

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January 29, 2024

Mohammed Ridwan

Step-By-Step Guide for an Effective Procurement Audit (With Checklist)

Some common procurement challenges are inadequate documentation, ambiguous contracts, insufficient internal controls, risk management, and non-compliance with industry standards.

There are only two ways to identify such issues: wait for repercussions to disrupt the supply chain or conduct a procurement audit.

This post will cover how to conduct a comprehensive procurement audit with a step-by-step process and checklist.

What is a Procurement Audit? 

A procurement audit is a systematic review of the procurement process to ensure compliance, efficiency, and effectiveness.

The auditing team carefully reviews documents like contracts and purchasing records in a procurement audit. It examines each phase of the procurement process, from bid assessments to contract management, to identify discrepancies and optimize efficiency. The main goal is ensuring adherence to regulations, minimizing risks, and refining procurement practices for optimal organizational outcomes.

How To Prepare for a Procurement Audit 

For an effective procurement audit, consolidate all the documents with proper access for relevant stakeholders. Employ procurement software to create a single source of truth and avoid unnecessary friction.

Implement access controls to restrict permissions to view-only access for sensitive procurement data. This step ensures that only authorized individuals, such as the audit team, can access critical information, minimizing the risk of unauthorized alterations or data breaches.

Here is an exhaustive list of documents you will need for the procurement audit:

  1. Procurement policies and procedures, including the updates or revisions to these documents
  2. Contracts and agreements with vendors — amendments, renewals, or modifications to existing contracts
  3. Purchase orders issued during the audit period and supporting documentation for each purchase order
  4. Invoices related to procurement and payment records, including dates and amounts paid
  5. Goods received notes and delivery records, including dates, quantities, and item condition
  6. Vendor profiles, including contact information and details of vendor qualifications and any evaluation or performance assessment reports of vendors
  7. Bid and proposal documents, the evaluation criteria, and scoring records for vendor selection
  8. Records of communication that are related to procurement decisions and processes — correspondence with vendors, internal departments, and other stakeholders
  9. Documentation outlining internal controls within the procurement process — evidence of segregation of duties and authorization processes
  10. Previous internal and external audit reports and any actions taken or improvements made based on earlier audit recommendations
  11. Procurement budgets and any adjustments or variances with the original budget
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Five Steps for Conducting a Procurement Audit

With all the documents ready, begin the procurement audit process. Here is an end-to-end five-step audit process with checklists for a successful audit:

1. Gather Stakeholder Input 

Conduct interviews with key stakeholders to gather insights. This adds a layer of understanding regarding the human aspects of the procurement process, helping identify challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Additionally, collaborate with relevant stakeholders, such as department heads and key project managers, to decide the scope and create an audit plan. This inclusive approach ensures an understanding of organizational needs and contributes to developing an effective and targeted audit strategy. 

2. Assign Roles

Create a clear roadmap for team members. First, designate a lead auditor to oversee the entire process. This person ensures coordination and consistency. 

Then, distribute specific responsibilities among team members, such as document analysis, interviews, and data assessment. This division of labor maximizes efficiency, expertise, and accountability, contributing to a well-executed procurement audit.

Here are the top four best practices when assigning roles to an audit team:

  • Clearly define team tasks to prevent confusion and streamline workflow
  • Implement segregation of duties for an unbiased audit process
  • Rotate roles periodically to encourage collaboration and shared expertise
  • Foster collaboration among diverse team members for a comprehensive assessment

3. Identify Problem Areas 

Examine the procurement process to identify weaknesses and assess the overall efficiency of the procurement process. Here are the top four steps to keep in mind:

Assess Purchase Orders, Purchase Requests, and Invoices

Examine the purchase orders, requests, and invoices for accuracy, completeness, and adherence to established protocols. Ensure that the documentation is easily accessible. Any discrepancies or missing information indicates inefficiencies or errors in the procurement process. 

Potential Loopholes

  • Misplaced signatures, unclear specifications, or missing supporting details
  • Discrepancies in recorded quantities, prices, or delivery dates
  • Mismatched product codes, incorrect quantities, or inaccurate pricing

Healthy Practices:

  • Implement a standardized checklist for purchase orders and requests, ensuring all necessary information is included
  • Conduct regular training for procurement staff on accurate and comprehensive documentation practices
  • Employ procure-to-pay software for storing and retrieving documents, enhancing accessibility and reducing errors

Review Vendor Relations

Evaluate the strength and effectiveness of relationships with vendors. Examine vendor agreements and contracts to ensure they are clear, comprehensive, and aligned with organizational needs. Also, verify the effectiveness of vendor vetting processes.

Potential Loopholes

  • Contracts lacking specificity in payment schedules, service levels, or delivery terms
  • Failure to verify vendor credentials, financial stability, or past performances

Healthy Practices:

  • Conduct periodic vendor performance reviews to ensure ongoing reliability
  • Develop transparent and standardized contract templates specifying payment schedules, service levels, and delivery terms
  • Diversify vendor partnerships to diminish dependency and enhance resilience

Analyze Procurement Practices

Assess the entire procurement process to check if it adheres to industry standards and complies with organizational policies and legal requirements. This involves comprehensively examining sourcing, contracting, and purchasing practices to identify deviations or shortcomings.

Potential Loopholes

  • Failure to adhere to industry standards or legal requirements, showcasing a disregard for regulatory protocols
  • Continued reliance on outdated or non-competitive suppliers, hindering cost-effectiveness
  • Lack of systematic identification and mitigation of potential risks, exposing the organization to unforeseen challenges

Healthy Practices:

  • Provide training sessions on industry standards and legal requirements to ensure ongoing compliance
  • Organize quarterly workshops focusing on proactive risk identification and mitigation strategies, fostering an aggressive risk-aware culture

Examine Internal Controls

Evaluate the segregation of duties, authorization procedures, and overall internal controls. Make sure that checks and balances are in place, preventing fraud, errors, or unauthorized activities that compromise the integrity of the procurement process.

Potential Loopholes

  • Allocation of responsibilities for both approval and execution to a single individual increases the risk of errors or fraudulent activities 
  • Insufficient checks and balances in the approval process, allowing unauthorized transactions
  • Absence of mechanisms to detect irregularities, fostering an environment conducive to fraudulent activities

Healthy Practices:

  • Provide employee training on fraud prevention and promote a culture of ethical behavior
  • Implement proper approval workflows to enhance control mechanisms

4. Spot Out-Of-Process Spending

Investigate expenditures to ensure they align with approved procedures. Any out-of-process spending indicates a lack of adherence to procurement guidelines, necessitating corrective measures. 

Potential Loopholes

  • Missing or inaccurately recorded receipts, making it challenging to validate and track expenses
  • Insufficient supervision that enables unsanctioned spending to go undetected

Healthy Practices:

  • Implement strict spending approval processes with explicit guidelines
  • Conduct periodic spending reviews to identify and rectify discrepancies
  • Use spend management software for real-time monitoring to detect and address unauthorized spending promptly 

Here is a list of elements to assess for the internal procurement audit: 

Procurement Audit Checklist

Check the following items to get a comprehensive overview of your procurement process. 

  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Clear audit trail for procurement transactions, documenting each step in the process
  • Delegation of authority matrix 
  • Roles and responsibilities as per the matrix
  • Training manuals to help users
  • Logical access rights to respective users
  • Segregation of duty (SOD) rules in the software
  • The purchase order dump — pick samples to check
  • If each purchase is supported by at least three vendors
  • Cost-benefit sample for vendors
  • Terms for purchase orders
  • Agreements of major purchases
  • Terms of sample agreements
  • Annual procurement budget aligned with annual operations planning 
  • Goods received notes (GRN) report
  • Open purchase requests and purchase orders
  • Exceptions to the process being approved
  • The aging of material available in the warehouse
  • If the same material was purchased by multiple vendors
  • Vendors approval process
  • Duplicate vendors in the system (identified via PAN)
  • Dummy vendors
  • Minimum order quantity (if created)
  • If the company maintains any risk register related to the procurement function
  • Sample vendor payouts (as per purchase order terms)
  • Internal control over financial reporting related to procurement
  • Measures to secure procurement data and ensure confidentiality
  • Ethical vendor selection practices, ensuring fairness, transparency, and avoiding conflicts of interest

5. Prepare Audit Report

Compile all audit findings related to internal procurement processes. Then, based on the following inspection, create an audit report:

  • Ensure procurement aligns with policies, standards, and legal requirements, identifying non-compliance and assessing organizational risk and reputation impact
  • Analyze the workflow, pinpointing bottlenecks and assessing control effectiveness for optimal procurement efficiency
  • Evaluate resource utilization in personnel, technology, and budget to optimize productivity without compromising quality
  • Assess risk identification, assessment, and mitigation in procurement, recommending improvements for enhanced resilience and threat minimization

Once the assessment is complete, document recommendations to address identified issues and improve procurement processes. Also, highlight aspects of the procurement process that align with best practices. 

Compile all findings, analyses, and suggestions into an audit report. Present the identified strengths and weaknesses, seeking input and additional context to enrich the audit findings. Finally, establish a monitoring mechanism to track the outcomes of the implemented changes. Regularly revisit and update procurement practices based on changing organizational needs, industry standards, and regulatory requirements.

Regular Audits for Efficient Internal Processes 

Routine procurement audits aren't just crisis management tools; they are proactive investments. By dedicating time and resources to periodic evaluations, you prevent issues before they arise. The long-term gains in efficient processes, improved vendor relations, and heightened compliance far outweigh the initial investment.

Automation adds a transformative layer to your procurement process, speeding up audits and providing real-time insights. We have covered in-depth how procurement automation can reinforce your internal processes without impacting your supply chain. Read how you can automate procurement without unnecessary complications.