After commission pay flubs, Miami-Dade audit shows more errors. Employees owe $3M

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Miami-Dade’s new human resources software contributed to a payroll mess for county employees, according to a recent audit, which found lax oversight of raises and more than $3 million in over payments that could go decades before they’re fully reimbursed.

READ MORE: Miami-Dade mistakenly paid a county commissioner an extra $1,000 a week. Nobody noticed

The audit ordered by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava after paycheck mistakes with county commissioners detailed broader issues with the county’s payroll system and procedures.

The report by the Audit and Management Services Department details challenges with the personnel and administrative software system called INFORMS, which was purchased in 2018 under the administration of then-Mayor Carlos Gimenez and implemented under Levine Cava.

In a memo to commissioners released Thursday, the Levine Cava deputy in charge of Human Resources said the agency had taken steps to improve the situation.

“Due to the significant errors and lapses in controls identified, immediate action has been taken to address employee performance,” wrote Carladenise Edwards, chief administrative officer. “These actions are being implemented with the utmost consideration for both the individual’s growth and overall success of the team.”

Improvements include a new function allowing short-term payroll reviews for staff, as well limits on who can change paycheck settings. The agency also revised the forms needed to make sure payroll changes have been authorized and mandated that the paperwork is checked each time, Edwards wrote.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Roberto J. Gonzalez was overpaid shortly after taking office in late 2022, a processing error that prompted a county audit once the mistake was discovered eight months later. Gonzalez paid back the $34,000 in extra compensation, saying he didn’t realize the pay for his new post was wrong.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Roberto J. Gonzalez was overpaid shortly after taking office in late 2022, a processing error that prompted a county audit once the mistake was discovered eight months later. Gonzalez paid back the $34,000 in extra compensation, saying he didn’t realize the pay for his new post was wrong.

Levine Cava called for the audit in August after the discovery that Commissioner Roberto Gonzalez had been overpaid about $34,000 through a payroll mistake that went unnoticed for eight months until the Miami Herald asked about it.

That inquiry prompted county staff to realize five other commissioners had been under-paid about $8,000 over five months, too. Gonzalez paid back the money, saying he hadn’t notice a paycheck error that started almost immediately after he was appointed to the District 11 seat in late 2022.

Gonzalez asked for an independent audit after the mistake was revealed, and Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Miami-Dade’s clerk of the court, said he would hire an outside firm to conduct one. That report is still pending.

READ MORE: Miami-Dade’s clerk launching an audit on county paycheck errors. (He had one, too.)

Auditors under Levine Cava examined the payroll system run by her Human Resources Department, which got a new director two weeks after the commission compensation errors became known. The high-profile paycheck mistakes highlighted broader frustration with INFORMS, including regular over-payments that administrators blamed on the transition to a new system.

The Nov. 9 audit report was released this week by Levine Cava’s office after a Nov. 14 request by the Herald. Among its findings:

There are 95 employees with the INFORMS access needed to adjust employee paychecks, but the system doesn’t track which of them made changes. That makes it difficult to trace why errors were made.

Spotty use of required authorization forms allow some paycheck changes to happen without proper approvals. Auditors pointed to one procurement employee given a $15,196 one-time compensation boost for tuition reimbursement “with no supporting documentation.” The report said Human Resources obtained the required documentation after auditors asked for it, and then discovered a mathematical error on the reimbursement.

In September, more than 4,000 of the county’s roughly 30,000 employees owed Miami-Dade money from $4.5 million in over-payments on past checks. The outstanding amount on Sept. 3 was $3.2 million, after $1.3 million in repayments.

The report doesn’t identify causes of all the over-payments but said a prior analysis and recent spot check found most were related to employees making adjustments to the prior pay period. That can happen when an employee ends up working different hours than they estimated when filing a timecard before a pay period ends.

Union rules cap repayments at $50 a pay period, meaning it will take years for Miami-Dade to recoup some over-payments.

The report cites one Transportation and Public Works employee who retroactively canceled six months of paid vacation time taken years earlier. The worker then owed the county $26,000 in back vacation pay, to be refunded at $50 every 14 days. Auditors noted the repayment will take 521 paychecks, “or the equivalent of 20 years to collect.” A Police Department employee owes nearly $39,000, which auditors said will take approximately 30 years to repay.

Roughly 270 employees owing about $165,000 no longer work for Miami-Dade but the county wasn’t pursuing the debts when auditors inquired. “We did not see evidence of HR or the Finance Department actively recovering these balances,” the report said.

Human Resources struggled to analyze some compensation data from INFORMS “because the payroll register report is only available as a PDF document, which makes it difficult to ... perform comparative tests over multiple payroll cycles.”

Miami-Dade hasn’t been updating some parts of the INFORMS system. A personnel system that launched in June 2022 has had 14 software updates available since then, but Miami-Dade declined to use most of them, saying efforts were focused on “system stabilization” instead.

Also in the report, auditors recommended Miami-Dade reduce the number of employees authorized to make payroll changes, find ways to update INFORMS software regularly, and negotiate with unions to lift the ceiling on reimbursement payments from employees.

This story was updated Thursday, November 29, 2023, to reflect the contents of a memo from the head of Human Resources.