Monday, April 8, 2013

Why Agenda Item on Using Outside Experts to Analyze City Payroll Systems

Since joining City Council in 2006, I have pushed consistently for City Management to procure an automated time keeping system: A system that makes city employees check in every day when they come and when they leave. Most major organizations that employ close to 5,000 have a system. The City of Long Beach does not.

Such a system gives an employer important information -- such as who is at work and who isn't; who works their full shift and who doesn't. It also protects the employer because it documents when lunches are taken -- failure to do so puts the company at risk for a law suit from many employees who contend they never received their lunch break. (see below under related articles).

This automated system also gives the employer the ability to make schedules and assignments.; to track vacation and sick leave, etc. Employees are given a card to swipe or a code to use on the telephone. The system tracks work and ensures the employees are actually there at work doing their jobs for the number of hours they claims.

The City of Long Beach does not have such a system. Time keeping is done on green sheets of paper each week that are hand-written and given to staff whose job it is to put the information into a computer program.
The information is then sent to a payroll company that processes paychecks.

If we were to have an earthquake tomorrow. No one could tell how many city employees were actually at work.

That is insane in this day and age of technology.

Finally a year or so ago, City management put out a request for proposals for a human resources system. What they got back were program after program that offered numerous bells and whistles. Sadly, the City had not clearly indicated what it actually was seeking and so it received proposals that were all over the place. Consequently, the City pulled the RFP and nothing was selected and the manual costly system stayed in place.

ADP Government Services were one of the responders to the RFP and contact my council office saying that I should know what happened in the process and why there were serious problems. I met in my council office with two ADP representatives who explained that it was clear to them the the City did not have the expertise to clearly specify what kind of system was needed and that moreover, the City could not tell how much current systems used by the City cost. The reps felt (and I agreed) it was important that the City know what our current system costs to determine how to select and new one that should save the city money. However, it you don't have a benchmark, you can't set a goal.

ADP Government Services reps indicated that they contract with another company who can do a study to determine the "total cost of ownership" of current systems. In other words, they can determine how much per employee it is costing the city per month to track employees' work, to manually input time sheets and then to get a paycheck processed.

I sent this information to the City Manager and I did not hear back. So I met with Councilman Gary DeLong and told him of the possibility for the City to get an analysis done so we could determine a benchmark as we go out for a new system. Councilman DeLong and I met again with ADP Government Services and city staff from Financial Management, Information Technology and the City Manager's office. It was understood from that meeting that City staff would work with ADP to  have the no cost analysis done.

Several weeks later, I chaired a meeting of the Civil Service and Personnel Committee and asked for an update. I was told that our Financial Management Department had indicated it would not participate in this analysis.

Councilmember Gary DeLong and I decided to place the issue on the Council agenda so that the entire City Council could decide should the city avail itself of a no cost analysis of the costs of our current systems.
City management thereupon (that's a big legal transition word) went to the City Attorney and prevailed on him to write a memo in opposition of the proposed analysis on the basis that it would supposedly give ADP an advantage on future RFPs.

Really? This is very interesting in light of City Management's recent actions: 1) without an RFP it used Management Partners to identify efficiencies needed and then asked for $500,000 for Management Partners to do a more thorough study -- all without ever asking for other companies to bid on this effort; 2) without an RFP it spent $80,000 for a "feasibility study" of a tunnel between the new courthouse and the jail. It gave that work to AECOM which had already examined this issue some time ago and then the City Manager gave AECOM another $986,000 to design the tunnel (that would not be built) that AECOM had studied and found "feasible." There wasn't an RFP or any other company given a chance to bid on the design.

So let's be clear on what Mr. DeLong and I are proposing:

  1. The City needs an analysis by experts in the field of human resources systems to determine what it is costing the city currently to process time keeping, payroll, leaves, vacations, etc.
  2. ADP Government services will contract with a third party to conduct the analysis. All the information obtained will be public and available to the City as well as other companies who bid to provide the actual new systems that will be needed.
  3. The City is under no obligation to select ADP for any system purchase.
Also full disclosure:
  1. I have no financial interest in ADP Government Services.
  2. I have never received nor would accept any political contribution from anyone associated with ADP.
  3. All my meetings with ADP representatives have been posted on my calendar and held in City Hall.
  4. I don't really care which outside experts conduct an analysis of our current systems and how much they are costing the taxpayer. I just want it done so we can start implementing costs savings and efficiencies into City Hall that should have been done years ago. 

P.S. No one inside City Hall can tell me how much it costs the city/taxpayers to keep track of employees' time and to process paychecks.
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