“We’ve been penny-wise but pound foolish” — DFA Secretary Tom Clifford on understaffing and underfilling state positions
More than 7,100 state employees endured the July 4th holiday explaining to banks and creditors that it really wasn’t their fault when their personal checks bounced at the first of the month.
That’s because of human error in the state’s payroll office, run by the Department of Finance and Administration. Though some had initially speculated that the problem was technical, department Secretary Tom Clifford told reporters in a news conference yesterday that the problem was human caused. (you can read the full accounting in the Santa Fe New Mexican, here).
Clifford blamed the error on a short-staffed and overstressed office trying to pick up the slack left from ongoing vacanies in the office and a lack of staff with accounting skills. To remedy the immediate problem and get paychecks out to the 7,100 employees, the state awarded an $198,000 emergency contract to a vendor to sort it out, and another $45,000 to Oracle, the state’s payroll software vendor.
Almost $250,000 later, the problem appears to be solved, though now Clifford says the understaffed office must process more than 8,000 individual forms to provide corrected paychecks to employees shorted.
A review of vacancies in DFA shows that the agency is operating with a 17% vacancy rate, almost 1-in-5. (source: SunshinePortalNM.org).
Readers will remember that upon taking office, Governor Martinez promised to reduce the size of government. This is the result. Critical functions, like payroll, are being performed by dedicated state employees who step up to do their work and that formerly done by the person in the now vacant office next door – all the while neglecting to fill critical positions, like those with accounting skills in the payroll office.