Omaha Fire Department "Much Improved" In Auditor's Report

By: Amaka Ubaka Email
By: Amaka Ubaka Email

It’s been a year since the dismal review by the state auditor of the Omaha Fire Department.

The accounting and payroll system was so bad that an audit couldn’t even be done.

Tuesday, a new report came out stating the fire department's payroll system is much improved.

“The city has taken our concerns very seriously,” says State Auditor Mike Foley.

“They didn’t just brush this problem under the rug. They jumped on top of it, got in there and said we’re going to fix this thing.”

In the past year the city has been working to implement several changes to the way the fire department keeps track of payroll.

A major change included the use of an electronic time-card system to keep track of hours firefighters work. In addition, a supervisor now approves employee's hours everyday and then payroll gets the figures cross-checked each week.

Before the improvements was no way to tell if firefighters were showing up for their required duty shifts or even being paid properly.

Foley says the new system is solid.

“I think it's a system taxpayers can rely on to know that the firefighters are indeed showing up for their appointed duty shifts, they're covering those hours, and being paid properly".

He did say there is still room for improvement. The fire department payroll system is still extremely complex. Foley says his team tested many paychecks and found quite a few errors.

“Sometimes the error were done to the benefit of the employee and sometimes the city actually shorted the employees and didn't pay them enough.”

Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella says they've worked hard to get rid of the outdated manual payroll process.

“This is validation that the procedures we put in place for monitoring staffing and accountability in the fire department is working,” says Spaccarotella.

She says they plan to simplify the process even more by using biometrics to transition to a total automated system.

“They will actually put their thumbprint on a biometric reader that actually records that person is present for work. It'll be directly imported into the payroll system and they will be paid from a fingerprint.”

The new technology has already been used for many hourly employees, but by the end of the year police and firefighters will use it too.

Foley says the city is on top of the problem and doesn’t plan on coming back next year for another audit.

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