County officials negotiating refund of tens of thousands spent on unusable software, hardware

Spalding County officials are involved in negotiations with two companies – CSI Technology Outfitters, formerly Computer Software Innovations (CSI), and Gorrie-Regan – regarding the refund of approximately $72,000 spent for hardware and software that were purchased to enable the county to convert from its current semi-monthly pay schedule to a biweekly schedule.

Spalding County Human Resources Director Bill Gay said the $72,000 covered the purchase of the software; the interface between the time and attendance and payroll; and annual maintenance, enabling the county’s pay schedule change, which would result in employees receiving 26 annual paychecks, rather than the current 24.

“Biweekly is more common. It’s easier to track those hours. On a semi-monthly basis, they don’t match up as well,” Gay said. “With biweekly pay, the hours that are on the paycheck are covered exactly.”

He said the hardware and software purchases made to help accomplish that goal were found to be incapable of performing as officials anticipated.

“When you’re going to an automated system, it’s easier to collect the data to go into a paycheck. We installed some time clocks and software for timekeeping and records,” he said. “We tested it and it was simply not able to do what we needed it to do, and the vendor simply was not able to get it to do what they said it could do when we bought it. It did not meet our expectations.”

According to Spalding County Manager William Wilson, the process was undertaken to automate and streamline a very complex system.

“CSI is the vendor that we bought the new hardware and software from at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010. CSI sold us the Dell hardware and CSI accounting, personnel and payroll software. That had nothing to do with time and attendance. CSI did not offer us time and attendance software, but they recommended Gorrie-Regan for the time and attendance software, he said. “What we wanted to do was go to an electronic time and attendance system. Right now, everyone fills out a paper time sheet every week and that has to be signed off on by a supervisor. We wanted to cut out some of this paperwork.”

He said it also would have made easier the payroll process, which under the Fair Labor Standard Act requires multiple pay rates and pay schedules based upon position of employment, such as law enforcement officers, corrections officials, public works employees and clerical or managerial jobs.

“The main thing that complicated it is being paid semi-monthly,” he said.

He went on to say these decisions were made during the time he was not acting as county manager, but upon his return, he did attempt to find a way to make the software work according to its intended purpose.

“We were not implementing it until I came back, and then we spent several, several months attempting to implement it,” he said.

These attempts continued until June 22, when Wilson announced via e-mail to county employees, “From the beginning of this project, we knew there would be changes that would have to made to accommodate an automated system, and as those changes were made, each of you willingly accepted those changes with the hope that the system would get better, but it did not. After considerable input from employees, department heads and elected officials, and months of working with the current software and hardware provider to no avail, the time has come to discontinue the use of the current time and attendance software and hardware.”

In the following days, Wilson had the hardware and software removed, and talks began with regards to securing a refund.

“I have asked them to refund it. We are in negotiations, but they have not,” he said. “Vendors rarely do that.”

Wilson said there is no contract between Spalding County and CSI, but merely a purchase order. Further complicating the current negotiation process is the fact that CSI has been purchased by a secondary company, becoming CSI Technology Outfitters.

Asked what legal recourse county officials have if refund negotiations fail, Wilson said, “I don’t know because it was sold by a vendor, but it was recommended by the computer vendor (Gorrie-Regan) we purchased our computers from. I don’t know exactly what Gorrie-Regan said at that time. We’ll probably come out at about 50 percent and that’s better than nothing. A lot has been learned and a lot more due diligence will be used next time.” Ω

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