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Four cases showing that supplier over-payments are more common than you think

Recovery audit

Franck Labarre

1 June 2021

3 minutes reading time

Unclear documents, human error, failure of the invoice recognition system, misreading of a document... there are many causes of over-payments. They are often the outcome of a combination of circumstances that even well-established procedures and painstaking internal checks don’t always prevent or find. The following sample of errors we frequently encounter in our clients’ accounting systems, all supported by supplier invoices, will show you what we mean.

It might seem unlikely that a company would pay the same invoice more than once. Yet double payments, like other types of over-payment, are more common than one might think. What’s more, they are not always easy to spot. “You can implement as much double-checking as you like, but if there is an error when originally entering the invoice in the system, you only detect it after the event,” Patrick Gouinaud, Head of Transaction Processes at Bayer, confirms.

It is through blending expertise and technology over the last 20 years that Runview manages to find them. First, the artificial intelligence algorithms. Second, the experience, attention to detail and deductive reasoning abilities of Runview consultants, well-used to deciphering accounts entries and the corresponding invoices.

Built on these cornerstones, our Profit Recovery audits identify errors that slip through the usual checks. The audits show that no accounting system is entirely free of these irregularities. The four examples below are representative of the kind of errors we regularly find for our clients.

The nearsighted OCR system

OCR Confusion

What chain of events led this company to pay almost €19,000 twice for the very same service?

Firstly, the same invoice was sent twice by the supplier. They probably sent a reminder, or sent an invoice to both the accounts department and the operational department where the service was provided, for instance.

Secondly, the invoice was paid twice without anyone noticing because it was not recorded with the same invoice number. This is shown top-right of the invoice in the “Situation 1” box. Not that obvious, we must admit. The first time it was logged in the system, it was recognized as the invoice number by the OCR (optical character recognition) but the second time, OCR mixed up the invoice number and the order number (also shown on the invoice).

As a result, although all the data are identical, the invoice was treated like two different invoices.

The supplier with multiple personalities

Example 2: mutliple suppliers

Here, the firm received two slightly different invoices, one with Taïs as the company in the header, one with Taïs Veolia. Nothing too surprising at first sight; a company can easily use different invoice templates.

Despite much of the information being identical, the accounting department failed to notice that the two invoices were for one and the same service delivery.

Understandably so - the supplier was in the supplier database twice with two different names (“Taïs” and “Taïs Veolia”). This is often the case when a company is organized into different branches or divisions, for example, with the result that one supplier is recorded under two different names. Consequently the service was paid for twice. The software thinks it paid two different suppliers, but in reality, both payments were made to the same entity.

→ Find out how to safeguard your financial resources with our supplier over-payment audits

The unexpected currency

Example 3: wrong currency

In this example, the invoice was only paid once. So the service was only paid for once. But in the wrong currency. While the invoice was in dollars, the amount was entered in euros in the ERP system, an unwelcome conversion that resulted in a €2k overpayment (given the rates at the time).

Errors of this kind often occur when a regular supplier with a certain default currency in the database sends an invoice in a different currency (for instance, because the service was provided by one of its foreign business units). If the process is automated, the result is that the currency assigned in ERP can be applied to the invoice by default.

The invoice that wasn't

Example 4: unclear documentation

This time the error concerns the type of document giving rise to the accounts entry. At first sight, it looks very much like an invoice, including the word “invoice” more than once on the page.

However, it is in fact a credit note. You have to look closely to find the word “Regul” and the minus sign, not exactly prominent but definitely there, to the right of the total figure, before you fully realize. These are the type of clues our algorithms and consultants are primed to find and recognize when examining invoices.

This expertise recovered almost €23,800 for our client, i.e. twice the amount of the credit note, wrongly paid as an invoice. Correcting just one error can pay off handsomely.


While these four irregularities are all run-of-the-mill examples, Runview’s experts are fully equipped to find much more unobtrusive or unusual errors, of a kind far more likely to escape the attention of the most painstaking checks. The outcome is that substantial sums of money are regularly recovered, including for corporations that believed they had no real over-payment issues. This was the case with Bayer, for example, which wondered whether the audit would really be able to deliver any relevant findings as their internal audits were already comprehensive. “Although we have very good internal processes, we realized that this audit could nonetheless be a useful addition,” explains Céline Lerissel, Tax Manager at Bayer.

About the author

Franck Labarre
Franck Labarre

Managing Director - Produit

Diplômé de l’Ecole des Mines de Nantes, Franck rejoint en 2006 l’aventure Runview. Il définit la stratégie des produits de Runview et supervise avec le CTO les développements des logiciels et des algorithmes par l'équipe R&D.

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