A double-troubling matter

A double-troubling matter

It is troublesome enough that the latest iteration of the contractor-supplied City of Pittsburgh payroll system is, in a word, failing to perform with any degree of reliability. What’s worse, however – and, frankly, outrageous – is what happened next.

As the Tribune-Review reports it, the gaffe-plagued computerized payroll system made one whopper of a mistake – overpaying about 240 (out of 600) city firefighters a total of $400,000 in late December.

Indeed, the calculations were complex, given a new contract had to include retroactive pay. City officials say the new $1.7 million system, was implemented by Ceridian, the vendor, to replace an outdated system.

The city, of course, now is attempting to recoup the overpayments. But said the president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1, in a rather mind-boggling statement:

“The money was deposited into their accounts two, three months ago and that money could already be gone.”

So, 240 firefighters were, cumulatively, overpaid nearly half-a-million dollars – some reportedly as high as $5,000 — and they simply spent the windfall? Really? Who does that?

Make no mistake, union boss Ralph Sicuro says the money should and will be paid back; he simply wants a fair repayment system.

OK, fair enough. But, again, the fact that firefighters may have, for lack of a better phrase, taken the money and ran should be raising eyebrows on a number of levels.

That said, the Trib reports that Sicuro says firefighters have reported pay problems in each of the six pay periods thus far in 2020. Which makes it sound as if there’s more of a problem with this new system than just calculating back pay.

A city official says Ceridian “is failing us.” Sound public policy demands that company make taxpayers whole and fix the system. If it can’t, a new payroll company, with a proven ability to perform, should be brought on board.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).