Time to fix our attendance problem

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF) are together implementing an Automated Time and Attendance (T&A) system at several Puerto Rico government agencies that is connected to payroll and will ensure only employees who are working get paid and avoid distributing incorrect pay to employees across government agencies.

The T&A initiative includes 86 Puerto Rico agencies and impacts over 88,000 employees. Most Government agencies and public corporations already have attendance registration systems in place, but those systems are not connected to payroll. This initiative seeks to link time and attendance to payroll to solve fiscal and operational issues by ensuring the government has proper controls over who gets paid. The goal of the initiative is to prevent fraud and enable agencies to validate personnel assigned to offices and work areas, measure compliance with assigned work schedules, and identify critical vacancies.

In September 2020, the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) identified almost 700 employees registered as inactive but still receiving payments. This, along with an estimated $80 million in unlawful payroll payments made in previous years, started the Oversight Board’s T&A initiative. So far, PRDE has saved almost $40 million for time not worked. The Oversight Board commends the PRDE Secretary and the entire PRDE team for successfully implementing the project by February 2021. PRDE is still working towards collecting prior year unlawful payments made as well as achieve at least a 90% of automated attendance reporting.

The Puerto Rico Department of Health (DOH) joined the program in August 2021, with agreed milestones mostly involving the integration of DOH’s current platform with an on-premise attendance workforce management platform. DOH’s outdated time-keeping system in certain non-hospital facilities provide some of the challenges, requiring cardboard punch cards for employees to register. Processing terminations and unpaid leave licenses were taking up to three months, leading to $12.5 million in losses between 2011 and 2021.

The Puerto Rico Department of Corrections became the third public agency to join the initiative.

The integration process at DOH and Corrections is expected to be completed by the end of September. The Attendance Policy and Manual of Procedures have been updated to reflect new processes and requirements. This has led both agencies to reach a 90% rate in registered employee attendance, while instances of time-not-registered saw a 39% drop in Corrections from February to July of this year.

Lessons learned during the initial implementation of automated T&A should help the government move the process further along across all agencies, with the goal to complete the implementation program government-wide by May 2024.

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