The government’s five-year contract with CIBC for Visa cards recently expired and was replaced in late August with Mastercards issued by BMO. The new three-year contract (with a possible two-year extension) will see 1,000 employees receive Mastercards immediately with another 13,000 cards issued in November.
The cards will be used by government workers for both online and offline purchases – mostly for small ticket items like office supplies, but Ontario is aiming to increase the number of Web transactions.
“”We’re sort of (doing it) vendor by vendor, contract by contract, moving more and more of that business online,”” said Karen Owen, director of strategic procurement for the Shared Services Bureau (SSB), the government agency handling the initiative. “”Certainly where we can pay using our purchasing card, we’re doing that. There’s certainly administrative savings to be had for government through online ordering.””
Vendors are being added on a case by case basis, she said. Grand and Toy, for example, is the preferred government supplier of office equipment. To enable the transactions, the SSB is setting up a “”mySSB”” portal for employees to enter the vendor sites and ensure that the transactions are performed securely.
The secure portal is part of a broader SSB objective to provide its services to government employees and ministries online. “”We’ll certainly be implementing the functionality of this program online and providing information to our card holders and managers about their activities (such as) statements online, registration online,”” said Owen.
The CIBC contract was considered a success, she said, but BMO brought certain cost benefits and back office functionality to the table. “”Obviously, we need to understand what we spend and how we spend. Managers need reports on the expenditures that are going on, staff need statements – all of that played a part, Owen said. She added that the CIBC has been instrumental is aiding the transition to Mastercard.
“”This is really more about the data than the card . . . the management of data, the integration, the ease of use,”” said Randy Ford, managing director for BMO’s e-purchasing solutions division.
BMO hosts a server-based application for the government called Details Online, which captures invoice data. That data is downloaded daily into the government’s accounting practice.
“”Some of the more robust programs around corporate purchasing cards actually have a lot of touches around invoice elimination and electronic payments. Their suppliers will get paid in a timely fashion and their suppliers will get paid electronically,”” said Ford.
Employees are able to access information about their card privileges through a browser, he said, and can make some rudimentary additions. There are blocks on the cards, too, said Owen, “”and certainly we have policy around the use of the card. . . . I can stop the use of a card at an LCBO (Liquor Licence Board of Ontario), for example.””
About 100 Federal Government agencies are also using the BMO Mastercard program, as well as private sector companies like Sears Canada, Telus and Hydro One.