Investigation: Problems continue to plague Philadelphia payroll system

The payroll system cost city taxpayers $40 million.

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Friday, May 19, 2023
Investigation: Problems continue to plague Philadelphia payroll system
Investigation: Problems continue to plague Philadelphia payroll system

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The OnePhilly payroll system has been getting a steady stream of complaints about payments in Philadelphia.

City employees say they're being shortchanged, and the city's 311 system has received nearly 500 complaints about OnePhilly since May 2019.

One of those employees complaining is Philadelphia dispatcher Danielle Schnauffer, and she estimates that she's owed more than 70 hours of payment.

"Just about every pay period I'm missing hours," she said. "I live paycheck to paycheck. Now when it's not in that paycheck, I can't pay the bills that I have to pay."

Schnauffer said getting her pay reconciled has been futile.

The payroll system cost city taxpayers $40 million.

Critics say since its launch, OnePhilly has been one big headache.

"They've never given us any communication. We just kind of go to figure it out on our own," said retired Philadelphia Police Officer David Gilmore.

Gilmore said it took seven months to begin getting his pension after he retired in late 2021 and blames OnePhilly.

"It was really frustrating after the third or fourth month," he said. "I was able to keep my head above water, using my own resources but seven months was a bit extreme and I really started to feel the pressure."

OnePhilly has spurred numerous lawsuits over the years over incorrect paychecks, missing overtime pay, and inaccurate withholdings.

The Fraternal Order of Police is among several unions which have sued the city.

The Philadelphia Law Department told Action News it settled with the FOP and others for more than $50,000.

But FOP union head, John McNesby, says problems still persist.

"It's like that carnival thing on the boardwalk where you got to just keep knocking heads down. It's funny, but it's not funny, because you're playing with people's livelihoods," said McNesby.

City Controller Audits on internal controls found problems and weaknesses with OnePhilly in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

In its annual report released last year, the City Controller blasted OnePhilly and said five out of nine findings in prior year audits were not resolved, and risk for payroll errors remained.

The Controller recommended the finance office, which oversees OnePhilly, to evaluate the sufficiency of resources dedicated to it.

The 2022 audit is expected to be released next week.

"To sum it up, it's a disaster," added McNesby.

McNesby said as part of the settlement, his union has since set up an arbitration panel with the city to resolve issues.

"It has to be done in a timely manner," he said. "I believe it's between three to five days."

A city spokesperson released a statement that read:

"We are confident that OnePhilly can correctly capture and pay Police time since we are doing so for Fire, which is a complex and large department. While the Police continues to use their legacy time-entry system, they have dedicated a team of employees that meets with OnePhilly weekly, starting back in 2018, and those meetings still continue every Thursday. During those meetings the teams are defining requirements to ensure the system can handle the PPD's payroll operations.

Our goal is to pay 100% of our employees on time and accurately. However, the City has a large workforce with complex earnings and deductions. Pay accuracy is always dependent on time being entered accurately and promptly, and employee HR records being accurate and up to date. Though rare, this does not always happen and can lead to pay issues. We believe we would have a certain degree of these issues regardless of the technology, since accurate time and HR information is required for any system."

McNesby said more needs to be done to resolve these persistent issues.

"We're spinning in circles here. I mean, I don't understand what the big deal is. If you know somebody's coming in at X amount of money, why can't they be paid that? It's not that hard," he said.

The Action News Investigative Team reached out multiple times to Oracle, the company behind OnePhilly.

It did not respond to requests for comment.