BROOKSVILLE — Audits over the last few years have shown problems with the way county employees record their hours worked and how their bosses monitor those reports.
Earlier this year, for example, a utilities employee who also was working as a consultant was fired because he was claiming time spent on his second job on his county time sheets. His supervisor was demoted.
Audit services director Peggy Caskey urged Hernando County to fix a big part of the problem by switching to an electronic time-keeping system.
Now, that is happening.
Several months ago, the office of Karen Nicolai, clerk of the Circuit Court, was the first locally to switch to a new time-keeping system called ExecuTime. Other county departments will soon follow.
Caskey, county finance director Amy Gillis and director of administrative services Cheryl Marsden all say that the system is going to save both staff time and money and smooth out the process for employees reporting their hours and supervisors approving time sheets.
The license and implementation for the system cost the clerk's office $53,000 and annual maintenance runs $7,000. Gillis said she believed the system would pay for itself in the first year of operation.
Caskey said it was worth the investment.
"This actually alleviates a lot of the audit concerns,'' she said.
In 2010, Caskey found that nearly a quarter of the time sheets she reviewed had errors. She calculated that annually that could add up to 3,500 time sheets and noted that could cost the county plenty.
"In addition to the financial and record-keeping aspects of this concern, the Department of Labor audits Fair Labor Standards Act grievances that can be particularly costly resulting in restitution of back pay, penalties and fines as well as the expense of administering or responding to the complaint and any legal fees associated with defending against it,'' Caskey wrote at the time.
ExecuTime is a Web-based time and attendance system that employees will access through Internet Explorer. When they arrive at their work stations, they log on and then clock in using the system. For those workers who are not in an office setting, special time clocks will be used to clock in.
There are also applications that allow employees to clock in by phone, by iPhone or iPad or by text message and the county is still evaluating whether to adopt some of those options.
The system shows actual time, eliminates manual calculating of hours and eliminates paper time cards.
"It streamlines the time keeping process and interfaces with our payroll system,'' Gillis said.
Employees will be able to request time off through the system and will see the balance of how much available paid time off they have left. Supervisors will get e-mails when the time sheets are available for approval and they will also be able to okay time off requests electronically.
A calendar in the supervisor's system allows them to see who has already asked for time off, helping with the decision-making process for approving or denying a time off request.
Another plus is that the system creates an audit trail of who approved what, Gillis said.
Marsden explained that the electronic system was welcome at a time when the county staff has shrunk so much and everyone is wearing multiple hats.
"Everyone is so rushed and that makes us more prone to errors. This is taking (some of) the chance of errors away, which is a positive thing,'' Marsden said.
The system also eliminates the need for people to rush from one area to another to deliver time sheets and can help payroll clerks in the various departments be more efficient. Gillis said that the clerk's office has already eliminated half a position in anticipation of the county board departments beginning to use ExecuTime in the next few months.
"It's going to be a time saver as well as a more accurate type of system,'' Marsden said. "Now, there's just lots of paperwork back and forth.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.