Overtime pay problem nags Fort Worth district

03/24/2014 5:12 PM

03/24/2014 5:14 PM

It’s a good thing that sloppy payroll procedures resulting in questionable overtime payments to some employees were discovered in a Fort Worth school district internal audit.

Good in the sense that this sort of thing is the reason to have an internal audit operation in the first place. The auditors earn their keep when they find problems for administrators to fix — or even if they find that current policies are working as they should to prevent problems.

It’s also a good thing that the findings in the latest audit are not as bad as those in a 2009 report that showed the district had made $1.54 million in overpayments to employees.

It would be a shame to go through the same issues twice in five years.

Still, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that some people in the district even now are not being as careful as they should be with taxpayer money.

In fact, a few have been doing stupid things that make them look like they are deliberately scamming the system for all the money they can get.

That’s a shame. The district has 12,560 employees, and the audit spotlights only a handful who are doing things wrong.

Superintendent Walter Dansby says the problem pointed out in the audit is “an isolated issue,” and it is being addressed with new policies. His responses to written questions about the audit were included in a report in Sunday’s Star-Telegram from staff writer Yamil Berard.

The overall issue is whether the district has proper controls on overtime.

Some employees, the audit showed, have adjusted their own timecards to claim overtime pay without a supervisor signing off on it.

In a glaring extension of that problem, one administrative assistant adjusted her timecard to show overtime on 45 percent of the days she worked during the audit period, and she made the changes using the school board secretary’s ID.

The board secretary denied making the changes, and in fact more than half of them were made on days after she had clocked out of the office.

The audit also found that some employees manipulated the leave time reporting system and were paid twice for the same day.

And one employee was paid for more than 1,200 overtime hours, an average of almost 64 work hours per week. His overtime pay alone totaled $55,700.

The district will require supervisors to take a much stronger role in policing overtime, Dansby said.

Under the new policy, supervisors must approve employee overtime in advance. In addition, the internal audit department and the payroll department will require a written explanation when an employee earns more than $2,000 in overtime during a single payroll period.

The school board’s audit committee is expected to review the report Tuesday.

This is serious enough that the board should keep a close watch on overtime pay for several months to make sure it is brought under control.

Individual employees who have abused the system can be dealt with through disciplinary procedures. Policies to control their behavior are the province of administrators, whose performance should be under the watchful eye of school board members.

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