Causes identified for public sector staff excess payments of €4.6m

Personnel details, delays and errors in processing system are key systemic problems

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy:  his report found that 39 departments had transferred their HR functions and 43 their payroll functions by the end of 2016.  Photograph: David Sleator

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy: his report found that 39 departments had transferred their HR functions and 43 their payroll functions by the end of 2016. Photograph: David Sleator

 

A series of systemic problems have been identified in efforts to manage and recoup the overpayment of €4.6 million to public sector employees.

In 2014, the National Shared Services Office was established to streamline HR and payroll services across a range of public service departments and organisations.

By the end of last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General report found, 39 departments had transferred their HR functions and 43 their payroll functions.

This led to a combined PSSC (payroll shared service centre) processing total of €3.2 billion, relating to 102,401 employees.

“It is inevitable some salary overpayments will occur given the scale and complexity of the payments involved,” the report noted.

In fact, it said, the value of overpayments last year amounted to less than half a per cent of the payroll it managed: “When overpayments arise, it is important that they are managed effectively.”

Employee circumstances

A random sample of 50 cases found that in nearly half (44 per cent), the reason came down to late notification regarding changes to an employee’s circumstances that would affect their level of pay. A further 20 per cent was explained by delays or errors in the processing system.

By the end of 2016, there were 648 cases for which no value had been recorded. A quarter of these were over six months old.

Efforts to recoup the money begin by contacting the employee and then establishing a repayment plan.

Meanwhile, an employee of the new Tax Appeals Commission was paid unauthorised overtime totalling €65,400 in 2016, the C&AG said. He could find no record of the payments being signed off by a more senior official as they should have been.

The payments represented 7 per cent of the commission’s expenditure and just under 10 per cent of salaries paid by the commission in 2016.

The commission took over hearing tax case disputes with the Revenue Commissioners from the Office of the Appeal Commissioners in March 2016.

The C&AG said the overtime claims were submitted directly to the Appeal Commissioners and that the commission’s head of administration, an experienced officer on secondment from the Department of Finance, was unaware.