City workers’ timekeeping system is spotty

Only about half of the City of Bremerton’s employees are using an electronic timekeeping system first introduced six years ago.

That’s one of several findings released in a new report by Bremerton Auditor Gary Nystul. Some of his other findings show that various city departments use over 25 different paper forms to process pay; there are some supervisors who are approving their own attendance; and the only person who prepares the entire city payroll does not have a fully trained backup.

“For the March 15, 2013 payroll, 161 employees were using electronic time keeping and 158 were still manual,” Nystul wrote in his report. “The major departments not yet on electronic time keeping are police, fire and parks.”

The city has just over 308 employees with salaries and wages that, not including benefits, total some $24,996,428. That’s down from 2009 when there were just over 369 employees at a cost of $26,528,877.

“The city does not have a written or electronic payroll manual or compilation of standard written instructions available for guiding departments and employees in the preparation and processing of pay,” Nystul wrote. “Employees who maintain the payroll in the various departments change from time to time. Email directives and information are issued periodically by HR and Finance but are not retained in any document or electronic file accessible to the various departments.”

In addition, employees are mailed an earnings statement every two weeks and there are six city employees who still receive paper checks for payment.

During last week’s study session, council member Eric Younger wondered why the statements can’t be emailed and why there were some workers still cashing paper checks.

“So, we have six holdouts here who want a paper check and we cannot mandate that?” Younger asked.

The answer was that all new employees are required to sign up for direct deposit and the “holdouts” are protected by prior bargaining agreements.

Nystul’s report says that some departments use paper daily labor report forms to capture the individual employee’s daily activity. In some departments, the hours are then entered manually into an excel payroll worksheet which is printed, approved with a manual signature and then delivered to the payroll specialist. The payroll specialist must re-enter the data into the payroll system. In other departments the hours are entered by the department timekeeper from the paper forms into the electronic time system.

In her response to Nystul’s findings, Interim Financial Services Director Cathy Johnson agrees that no employee should be approving their own time and that the practice will be corrected. Johnson also notes that in early 2013, the city contracted for an upgrade to its financial accounting system and the addition of employees to the system was stopped pending implementation of the new system.

“Software configuration and installation was completed in September with training following in November,” Johnson wrote. “We are currently testing the new software and hope to be ready to implement by the end of the second quarter. At that time we will schedule the remaining departments for implementation.”

When it comes to the number of forms used to process payroll in various departments, Johson said there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The size and nature of work performed directly impacts the number and type of forms required,” Johnson wrote. “We acknowledge that in many cases some processes have not evolved with technology and are trying to work with individual departments to streamline their processes when we see areas of improvement.”

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