State audit asks DOT to tighten payroll and fiscal policies
Published 11:21 am, Monday, March 22, 2010
A state audit has found that the Department of Transportation discarded proof of whether supervisors had approved biweekly employee payroll submissions and other expenses, including mileage and travel reimbursements, during 2007 and 2008.
Robert Jaekle, one of the state's auditors of public accounts, said that his office had sought to review the time sheets and payroll records of 20 employees from pay periods in both those years to verify compliance with a policy requiring supervisors to retroactively approve employee paychecks and other expenses that were paid out without initial sign-off from the managers.
In those cases, payroll staff would approve the submissions before later getting the approval of managers.
Because of a lack of space for the paper files then in use, the information about those approvals had been discarded to make room for new payroll information, according to the audit.
"(The DOT is) supposed to maintain those records until we complete an audit cycle, but we found evidence that the procedure was not always complied with," Jaekle said.
Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said that in April 2009 payroll staff instituted a new protocol to maintain records of supervisor approvals. The approvals now are attached to an original master list of "payroll approved" time and filed by pay period.
"We certainly weren't paying folks who shouldn't have been, but it wasn't an ideal set-up," Nursick said. "But it's been corrected, and the new system allows all these processes to take place in an easier way to ensure all the time sheets are signed off appropriately."
The audit also identified three instances in which retiring employees were overpaid by a total of $50,970 for accrued sick leave balances after a DOT accountant incorrectly calculated the payments using a 100 percent reimbursement rate instead of the usual 25 percent rate.
The DOT says that the oversight has been corrected by adding an additional step of verifying payout information with records, and that the employees have been notified of the mistake. So far, one of the employees has returned the overpaid funds, Nursick said.
The audit also recommended the DOT change accounting procedures to avoid the use of money from the New Haven Line revitalization fund and other accounts toward unauthorized purposes. The recommendation cites an instance in 2008 when $3.9 million from the fund was diverted to pay for the purchase of CTTransit buses and assorted other vehicles for small transit districts.
The money in the fund is designated solely for the purchase of the state's new fleet of M-8 rail cars and the construction of the New Haven rail yard.
The DOT response provided in the audit said that the money from the New Haven Line fund was restored when $7.5 million in bonds previously approved by the state to purchase the vehicles became available.
"It would be a bigger problem if the funding didn't exist to replace the money, though the practice is questionable," Jaekle said.