Birmingham City Council - Europe's largest local authority with a £3bn annual turnover - says it has about 10,000 unpaid invoices from its suppliers "stuck" in a SAP-based financial system, more than six months after going live.
The council initially said it had cleared a backlog of invoices which built up when it implemented its Voyager system in October 2007 - but the council's spokesman said today this led to a build-up of unpaid invoices "further along in the payments system".
The council has set 13 May as "Approvals Day" to clear backlogs and "identify and permanently eradicate any remaining payment issues that still exist".
Council officers appear to have been thrown by the rigour and depth of changes the SAP system imposes on the way council staff work. In February the council's lead for the IT transformation programme, Glyn Evans, told Computer Weekly that specific problems had been foreseen but "what we didn't take into account was the cumulative effect".
More recently staff have claimed that employees were assigned the wrong roles in the system - and when they rejected misdirected invoices these were later returned to them by the system. The staff say all they can do is register a support call.
A spokesman said the council "recognises the problems that overdue payment causes our suppliers and we are determined to minimise the number of these". He added that Approvals Day will "enable the more difficult ones [unpaid invoices] to be identified so appropriate action can be taken to ensure payments are made where needed."
Computer Weekly reported in February that bailiffs hade visited the council which then had 18,000 unpaid invoices.
Some suppliers withdrew goods and services, and a number of staff used their own money to buy food for a children's care home. The council had told Computer Weekly that it expected to clear its backlogs of unpaid invoices by the end of February 2008.
The council's IT transformation programme, which included the SAP project, was among the winners of the Cabinet Office's E-Government Awards. Gordon Brown praised the awards winners in January 2008.
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