Agencies embrace electronic payments

Federal agencies increasingly are paying their vendors for goods and services by electronic funds transfer instead of checks.

Charts drawn up by the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service show 65 percent of vendor payments were sent electronically in December 2003, the latest month for which results are available.

FMS made 1.14 million payments electronically and 625,762 by check at the end of the year. In comparison, FMS distributed 50 percent of vendor payments electronically in January 2003.

Overall electronic funds transfers by agencies, including salary, benefits, and vendor and other payments, rose to 76.9 percent in fiscal 2003, up from 76.1 percent in 2002.

In December, the Office of Personnel Management remitted 99.7 percent of its payments electronically and issued only 162 by check.

NASA and the National Science Foundation were close behind. NASA paid 99.2 percent of its vendors by electronic funds transfer and NSF, 98.5 percent. NSF wrote the least number of checks—only 70—for vendor payments in December. Other agencies that paid more than 90 percent of vendor bills electronically were the Agency for International Development, the General Services Administration and the Social Security Administration.

The Education Department sent only 6.2 percent of its vendor payments electronically in December, the lowest percentage among federal agencies.

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