Province of West Flanders manages incoming invoices digitally

In 2013, the Province of West Flanders successfully switched to the digital processing of supplier invoices, working closely with Arco for scanning and recognition of documents, and with the contractor, Cipal for routing, approval and entering accounting data in Mercurius software.

A clear project-based approach ensured that scope and responsibilities were clearly defined from the outset. As a result, the service was quickly put in place.

A clear, no-nonsense approach with smooth communication lines facilitated good contact among the parties concerned. The level of support provided was excellent, with questions or problems being dealt with accordingly.

Stijn Lombaert is directeur griffie en verantwoordelijk voor management en organisatie

Stijn Lombaert, Registry Director and Management & Organisation Officer

Why embark on this project?

Quicker and more accurate monitoring of budgets, which requires incoming invoices to be processed as quickly as possible in the accounting department.

The ‘Policy and Management Cycle’ works on a transactional basis. Prompt and correct accounting treatment requires modified process support.

Concrete improvements

All invoices now arrive with the accounting department at head office, which speeds up registration (shorter turnaround times) and also reduces the risk of invoices getting lost or misplaced.


  • Invoices are, in principle, scanned on the same day in the accounting department.
  • Invoices are enriched with matching information within 24 working hours.



  • The order number is extracted from the invoice and used to ascertain which approver should receive the document.
  • The invoice is sent automatically to the right approver (routing), without the accounting department having to manually intervene and allocate it.


Recent European legislation stipulates that, in the future, invoices have to be paid within 30 calendar days. This is now possible thanks to quicker turnaround times.

Arco and scanning in the cloud


  • The accounting department scans documents via an user-friendly interface
  • Recognition (OCR) and validation carried out by Arco operators
  • Approximately 17 fields recognised and accurate output delivered.

Clear SLA provided and achieved in practice:

  • Results available for further processing within 24 hours
  • Accuracy rate of 99.7%
  • All scanned documents delivered. Audit trail available and capability to monitor the status of all documents.

25 000 invoices a year

The province processes no fewer than 25 000 invoices a year. On some work days (outside the holiday period), it is not unusual to receive around 250 invoices, which are all scanned in on the same day. Arco has proven to be capable of processing these volumes without any problems or delays. The smooth working relationship between the provincial authorities and Arco ensured that any problems in the start-up phase were tackled quickly and efficiently.

Outsourcing such large volumes of invoices to an external entity raised doubts at the start. However, they quickly receded after the service quickly became operational and demonstrated that it could work highly effectively. Arco’s flexibility, in particular, was an important factor in fine-tuning invoice enrichment.

Scanner software turned out to be easy to use, which kept the time spent on training down and acceptance levels high.


Cipal Mercurius accounting software is equipped with a workflow module. Invoices are submitted to the workflow and approvers check all the details before approving or rejecting them.

Legally-compliant digital archive

Scanned documents are stored in a legally-compliant digital archive. The Arco portal contains all the invoices in accordance with legal requirements. Invoices are enriched with digital signatures, have clear time stamps and cannot be altered. An audit trail records every step in the process, eliminating the need for a paper archive.

Like the central archive of invoices, all other decentralised archives become redundant too. For instance, budget managers no longer keep invoices linked to commitments, but instead search for them digitally using accounting apps.