Evolving Government: Simplified expense management can change the way government does business


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Anyone who has stapled a pile of receipts to a paper expense report to be reimbursed at work knows the process is unnecessary and laborious. It’s also one that becomes more cumbersome as the size of the organization grows. Most large companies have internal tools that alleviate some of the burden of managing expenses, but these tools largely replicate the painful paper-based process in a system unfriendly to the user. The government is no different. The U.S. government employs over 2.8 million people, across hundreds of agencies, and in separate divisions and departments within each agency. The number of hours lost annually to the administration of employee and agency expenses is incalculable.

But it’s more than just a matter of efficiency and the modern quest to go “paperless” that points to a need to find a better way. Consider a case like an emergency response to a natural disaster or a public health crisis. The rescue efforts of first responders and the personal safety and well-being of victims are on the line. Every minute spent on authorizations for purchases is one not spent helping those in need. And yet, because of the size and complexity of government, rescue efforts can be hampered by the need to determine who is paying for what, and which expenses are/are not approved.

When current provisioning processes prove too slow to provide an adequate relief response, those in the field have no choice but to find a way around obstacles. This often means risky spending practices that don’t offer suitable controls or transparency into spending. While we focus on outlying examples of government spending and “big news” events like the Whitefish Energy controversy as the catalyst for change in managing government spending, getting a handle on day-to-day spending is equally important. In an age where there is a high level of scrutiny on the appropriate use of government funds, the need for a more streamlined approach has never been more apparent.

Instead, envision a revised scenario where prepaid payment cards with integrated mobile expense management capabilities are in use. A first responder would use a mobile app to request funds, along with a description of how the money will be used. The manager overseeing relief efforts would approve the request, making funds available immediately on a prepaid card. Once purchases were made, transaction details would be available in real-time and backed up by a photo capture of the receipt. Administrators would see purchase details for all cardholders to track spending and generate reports to keep decision-makers apprised of the budget status at all times. The potential for waste and abuse are eliminated because of the transparency provided by the mobile app, and the urgency of the situation is met by the immediate availability of funds to respond.

Enter a solution like the dash Prepaid Mastercard, a low-cost prepaid offering available to federal agencies. With dash, agencies can issue prepaid cards to disparate groups in multiple locations and easily reload the cards, track spending, and manage expenses with an easy-to-use app. This end-to-end payments and expense management solution meets stringent requirements that allow even businesses in heavily-regulated industries to quickly and efficiently implement a customized prepaid card program.

Take one customer as a notable example. Karmic was approached by a financial institution to develop an innovative debit product for the bank’s small and medium-sized business clients to complement a product suite targeted at this vital segment. The result was a prepaid card solution that provided the bank’s most valuable business customers with the ability to track daily spending and expenses among their employees. Within a short time, the bank began to issue its own branded card, seamlessly integrated with Karmic’s expense management technology and program management services. Innovative customer applications of the bank’s new prepaid offering include a not-for-profit organization funding employee education expenses, and a small business that has reined in spending among members of its sales team through enhanced accountability.

When it comes to the use of prepaid payment cards with integrated mobile application budget and expense management, the parallels between large financial institutions and federal government agencies are immediately apparent. Through the adoption of a prepaid expense management system, agencies can save time and effort managing expenses and transactions. There are also the added benefits of eliminating the use of personal funds or credit cards for government expenses, enhanced accountability, and real-time budget updates.

The path to change isn’t always easy, but with previous experience with large-scale programs in heavily regulated environments, and public-sector implementation strategies gleaned from being a part of the Dcode Accelerator program, Karmic is in an excellent position to help change the way the government does business.

Tara Bonnell is VP of Marketing at Karmic Labs, Inc.

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Dcode, evolving government, Karmic