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Report: Dallas County Responsible for Payroll Software Issues

An independent consultant has deemed the rollout of Dallas County’s new payroll software system “one of the worst that I’ve encountered” after it has left employees and vendors unpaid or inaccurately paid.

(TNS) — The rollout of Dallas County’s new payroll software system — which has left employees and vendors unpaid or inaccurately paid for months — has been deemed “one of the worst that I’ve encountered” by an independent consultant.

The consultant, former DART interim president/executive director and ex-CFO David Leininger, told county commissioners at the Continuous Improvement Committee meeting on Monday that the county’s woes could be tied to a lack of IT involvement, communication and planning, among other issues.

Leininger said that the county’s IT team, the software consultant, project manager and others “failed” auditor Darryl Thomas, who oversees payroll. He said internal IT staff should have done more testing beforehand.

“The IT team that was associated with this — not the broad IT team — should have done a lot more work on risk assessment,” he said. “There’s a good bit of responsibility that we rest there.”

The former head of the county IT department previously told The Dallas Morning News in an interview that she warned elected officials there were risks to implementing this Oracle financial management system in April.

Melissa Kraft, who resigned June 30, said she wanted to delay the software rollout because there were repeated test failures, but county officials — including Thomas — pushed forward. She said on Monday that her department did not have much say on the direction of the project.

“IT staff told him it would have been better to delay the go-live,” she said. “IT staff told him (Thomas) it wasn’t ready.”

Thomas did not respond to a request for comment.

Leininger also told commissioners that the county should not have tried to push through so many software changes at once. Dallas County has also seen a deluge of complaints from criminal justice departments over a new criminal case management system, which launched a month after the new payroll system.

“Usually, you don’t see this many major systems all introduced at the same time, because of the risk,” he said. “Here you are, bringing them on in a relatively compressed time.”

Commissioners asked questions as they tried to understand the software and breakdowns in the process.

Commissioner Theresa Daniel called the conversation a “devastating assessment of what’s going on.”

Commissioner Elba Garcia said that mistakes were made, calling the system migration a “fiasco.”

“I really want to apologize to all the employees and vendors for the delays,” she said. “I know that a lot of their lives have been turned upside down.”

The ‘fiasco’

Commissioners approved the $39,000 contract for Leininger’s consulting services Aug. 9 after nearly four months of serious ongoing technical issues related to correctly paying county vendors and 6,800 employees.

Attorneys, court reporters, expert witnesses, sheriff department deputies, jail guards and early election poll workers have all said that there have been issues with paychecks. Employees and contractors have complained of shorted pay and hours missing from their paid time off banks.

Leininger said there are still about 650 employees who have unrectified errors in their paychecks, a reduction from about 3,000.

There have also been discrepancies in payments for child support, association dues and retirement plans — all which should be deducted before employees receive their paychecks.

County employees have already filed a complaint about the pay issues with the Labor Department, which has launched an ongoing investigation.

Leininger estimates that it could take the county a few months to dig itself out of the backlog of payments, and to set up correct payments for employees and vendors.

He advised that the county address the employee payroll issues within the next two pay cycles.

The backlog of invoices and inaccurate pay to vendors could take more time, he said. There are thousands of invoices with problems — some vendors have been paid incorrectly, while others have not received compensation.

“You really need to clear all this stuff up so that it doesn’t impede your completion of the year-end audit,” he told commissioners.

Gaps in system, communication

Leininger found that there have been systemic issues with moving to the Oracle software system. Some data has been corrupted in the software transition.

Thomas told commissioners that there were vendor invoices that did not transfer over into the new system.

Standard reports that Leininger deemed critical to running operations were not built into the new system. He said that Oracle should have been more involved.

“I can’t speak to why those basic reports weren’t worked on and developed. I would put that back on both the Oracle consultant and also our project manager in the county,” he said. “If I were sitting in your shoes, I would insist that that gets done because it’s degrading your ability and staff stability to really run these new systems.”

Leininger also told commissioners there was a lack of communication with employees and vendors. Frustrated employees have told The News that they can’t get anyone at the payroll office to take their calls or respond to their emails.

“It’s really not possible to actually reach somebody on the phone and express their concern,” Leininger said. “Under the circumstances, I think there’s a trust problem and confidence problem… Everybody has been affected.”

He recommended that there be a designated call center in the payroll department.

Leininger and commissioners also discussed whether to stop using Oracle’s programs, but all ultimately decided that it would take longer to implement another new system now or return to the old system that had its own shortcomings.

Thomas asked commissioners for two additional, temporary staffers to help payroll correct compensations and said auditors will continue to oversee the process.

© 2023 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.