By overcoming three major challenges, Miami-Dade County revived an energy management program burdened by outdated and inefficient processes. In this post, we discuss one of the challenges the County overcame—its troubled utility bill review and payment process.
With three accounting systems and a legacy energy reporting system, the County faced the challenge of getting the correct paper invoice to the proper accounting department. At the time, individual departments had their own way of processing their bills, and there were no standard operating procedures for paying bills or auditing them. With 1,500 facilities spread across 24 county departments, accurate energy accounting was vital—but their current system was inadequate.
That’s when they turned to EnergyCAP software to improve their utility bill review and payment process.
New Electronic Bill Import
Today manual handling of electricity bills is a thing of the past, saving Miami-Dade the labor costs eaten up by tedious manual bill entry. The County estimates a savings of $108,000 per year using electronic invoices, and now those staff hours have been redirected to other projects, so no employees have been laid off due to the electronic process.
The County’s chief electric vendor, Florida Power & Light (FPL), sends a daily EDI file that contains all of the invoices for the day. When EnergyCAP receives the invoices by EDI, they are first separated into bill batches by financial system. EnergyCAP responds to the vendor, opens a new bill batch, imports the bills, closes the batch, and then runs audits, identifying which bills are important to examine more closely.
Standard Procedures with Special Audits
Part of the County’s standard operating procedure is ensuring that estimated bills are flagged immediately and dealt with appropriately. Using the user-configurable Workflow Manager in EnergyCAP, each department now has a bill auditing and approval process that fits their workflow while still adhering to countywide protocols. Once the daily audits are complete, a Miami-Dade employee then reviews the bills for his or her area of responsibility, and approves them for payment, moving them from the unapproved folder to the approved folder.
The customizable user permissions in the software simplify bill management by giving users control only over processes relevant to their department and purview. One department had a tiered approval process for all energy invoices, so a special audit was set up for this department that automatically failed every invoice, essentially creating a secondary approval process. Bills that are flagged for whatever reason can be placed in the problem folder, investigated, and resolved.
The County has also been able to identify individual buildings that are using too much energy by using EnergyCAP audits. County energy managers rely on EnergyCAP’s library of audits to identify vacated lease spaces with unusual patterns of energy use. Whenever a department asks for an audit validation for a suspect unit, a simple inventory check reveals the issue. A basic audit for accounts that were to be paid by new owners has helped to identify about ten vacated units so far, and the process is ongoing.
EnergyCAP’s audits were also helpful recently in identifying a case of fraud. An energy liaison with the Parks and Recreation department received notice of an audit failure of a 226% variance between the usage/day and the average. This was higher than the greatest reading for the last 12 months for the pump station. She reached out to the local manager and he identified an unauthorized wire tied into the electrical meter. The local authority was contacted, and a fraud investigation was pursued, which will result in a credit from FPL.
Customized Processes for Accounting and Reporting
Once audits are complete, all approved bills are sent through a series of automated processes each night, and prepared for the appropriate accounting department and EAMS (Miami-Dade’s energy reporting and facilities system). Miami-Dade was able to set up customized processes that meet the specific criteria of each of the accounting and reporting systems. Not only are there no more lost invoices, but estimated bills are properly dealt with.
Congratulations to Miami-Dade County for resuscitating its bill review and payment process!
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