A new programme in the public service is aiming to generate savings of up to €200m in the processing of low value invoices.

Procurement Minister Brian Hayes today launched the framework for the supply of purchasing cards to the public sector.

Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank won the tender process to supply the new cards.

Purchasing cards work on the same principle as credit cards and can be accepted by all credit card enabled suppliers. 

They offer additional security controls such as weekly limits for users and cost limitations on individual purchases.

The Minister noted that most public sector bodies currently spend a significant amount of time processing up to half a million invoices with an average value of €350. He said this is inefficient and consumes a considerable amount of staff resources. The new purchasing card programme will eliminate a lot of the time consuming processes, while at the same time will improve security and accountability.

Through the use of purchasing cards, receipt of payments by suppliers will accelerate to less than four days. The Minister said this will be a major boost for the small and medium enterprise sector as improved cash flow is critical to their day to day operations.

The new programme is available to the entire non-commercial public sector, including central government departments and offices, non-commercial state agencies, local authorities, the health sector, the education sector, the guards, the defence forces, the prison services and the National Lottery company.