Just recently I gave a Knucklehead award to Palm Beach Schools CFO Joe Moore for the problems that are happening with the payroll for school board employees. Today's Palm Beach Post had a detailed article about the still ongoing problems.
A new $19.8 million software program that caused paycheck problems for hundreds of school employees has a history of problems at dozens of colleges and school districts.Did anyone with the School board ask for references in regards to this software? Before doing business with anyone, I check for background. Apparently small children not adults are running the school system here in Palm Beach County. Those are the only people that would take someone at their word.
Last year, Washington, D.C., school officials scrapped a $25 million PeopleSoft implementation because they couldn't make it work. The San Francisco Unified School District found its financial records in a state of chaos and spent millions more than expected to put the system in place. Five years later, there were still problems.
Costs still building
Purchasing and implementing PeopleSoft software in the school district has already cost $19.8 million -- enough to build a new elementary school -- and fixing the problems could cost millions more.Taxpayers like myself will pay through the nose for this debacle.
PeopleSoft software: $4.1 million
Computer hardware: $1.1 million
eVerge Group consultants: $13 million
Plato consultants: $1.6 million
Possible future costs:
Project director/consultant services: $1 million
Team of full-time analysts to work with issues permanently: $500,000 annually
In Chicago, paycheck problems caused such an uproar that teachers threatened to picket and file a lawsuit. In 2002, PeopleSoft agreed to pay the University of California $500,000 after the state's board of regents accused it of fraud and breach of contract.Again why no one found this before hand is beyond me.
In Palm Beach County, implementing PeopleSoft caused hundreds of errors in paychecks affecting some of the county's lowest-paid workers: bus drivers, after-school staffers, temporary workers and part-timers. And many of those who started work after the system was in place during the summer have complained, too.Channel 12 reported the bus driver's protest on the 6 o'clock news tonight. So these people get screwed twice. First with the half cent extra sales tax then pay, then when the school board doesn't pay them right.
Two weeks ago, more than 60 bus drivers who were shorted pay walked off the job in protest after officials failed to deliver on their promise to correct inaccuracies. More than 200 drivers are expected to bring their complaints to the school board at today's meeting.
Is it too simple just to appoint someone to do this manually. Cut the checks by hand and fix the computer records later I say. I guess that would require too much intelligence from children.
Superintendent Art Johnson said he wasn't aware of the extent of the problems with the software and its implementation elsewhere.Right there Johnson should be fired. For this problem has been going on for two months. I don't know what planet he's been on, if what the Post writes is true, Johnson needs to be replaced. I mean, doesn't the man pick up the newspaper or talk to school employees? This has been talked about since July.
Johnson is another child who can't take responsibility. Maybe he'll get tomorrow's knucklehead award for he sure is derving of one.
He doesn't hold any of his staff responsible for the mess, but puts some blame on eVerge Group, a consulting company that was paid $13 million to put the program into use. The group recommended putting all components of the program — purchasing, payroll, human resources and attendance time clocks — into action at once.No one on his staff is responsible? Then you are Art Johnson, for you run schools in this county. If you can't do it, resign and go run something you do have an aptitude for. Like digging ditches.
The problems associated with the software and its implementation started almost immediately.
When the system went live in July, glitches slowed down hiring. Secretaries, who lacked updated training manuals and sufficient training, spent hours on tasks that before took minutes, delaying essential projects. Attendance clocks logged inaccurate time, messing up paychecks and forcing a temporary abandonment. Because data in the computer weren't catching up with real events, vendors and new employees weren't paid.
Some employees missed mortgage payments and child-support payments weren't garnished, prompting letters from the state.
The problem overwhelmed the 12-person payroll department and the human resources staff and could cost as much as $770,000 just in overtime and temporary worker pay.
Although the initial glitches have been fixed, the district is struggling to correct serious problems in payroll, which has been hampered by the resignations of three key staffers. In the spring, Erick Sherman, the project's director, resigned, followed by project staffer Alvin Dunn in the summer. This month, payroll manager Barbara Rogers quit.
I doubt those people 'quitting' was exactly a coincidence.
This summer, so many people were complaining about missing checks and money that school police were called in to the department. Initially, officials reassured employees they'd see corrections in the next paycheck. Then the next. And the next.
Employees criticized officials for not returning calls and keeping them in the dark.
"Part of the time we didn't know what to say to employees," Johnson said.
Johnson is in the dark too. Dark side of the moon with his big fat pay checks. Cut his pay off and boy I make a bet things would get done fast.
The district recently hired consultants from IBM and now acknowledges its failures publicly: The district should have relied on professional trainers rather than employees who had some training but far less experience using the system. Staffers should have run dual systems to ensure people got paid. And they should have consulted with staffers in the information technology department.As I say lots of money down the toilet and it should have never happened. Johnson and Joe Moore need to be held responsible.
The change in tone comes after another consultant, brought in to offer advice, criticized the district for failing to prioritize its growing list of problems and communicate its progress to employees.
"I don't' see any one person in charge of this project," Mike Casey, chief information officer for the San Diego Unified School District, told the Palm Beach County School Board last week. "You need to stop making decisions by committee. You need to bring somebody in here to take charge of this and remove all the political issues and egos and get it back on track."
Casey, who worked on San Diego's troubled implementation of PeopleSoft, issued several recommendations, including increased training opportunities, a full-time project manager, a group of consultants to fix payroll and a staff of information technology analysts to work exclusively with PeopleSoft.
The price tag: $1.5 million and $500,000 annually.
The district isn't the first client that bought PeopleSoft Inc. software and then struggled horribly to install it. Its products have helped college students in Wisconsin avoid expulsion, prevented teachers from getting jobs in Idaho and fouled up thousands of paychecks in several states, including Colorado, Florida, North Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.Stop passing the buck and fix the problems. Fire Art Johnson and Joe Moore or cut off their pay till this debacle is fixed.
One Ohio university sued the software giant in 2004 for $80 million, accusing it and its consultants of fraud after it spent more than $16 million fixing glitches associated with the program. It settled the suit last year for $4.25 million.
The maker of Gore-Tex filed a similar suit in 1999 and eventually settled out of court.
Although some officials and school board members were not familiar with PeopleSoft's history, they point to other districts that have implemented other software problems with similar problems.
"A transition this large is going to be fraught with difficulty, and that is just what goes on," said school board member Monroe Benaim. "It's like we brought in a new management system... in a paper system."
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