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HomeNewsArchivesAUDIT: 5 V.I. EMPLOYEES OVERPAID $184,936 TOTAL

AUDIT: 5 V.I. EMPLOYEES OVERPAID $184,936 TOTAL

The V.I. government overpaid five employees a total of $184,936, and apparently none of them bothered to correct the error. The information is contained in a V.I. Inspector General's audit released Tuesday.
One of the five, Lucien Moolenaar II, already is facing charges in connection with the overpayments. He had been acting Health commissioner but took a leave of absence when he was charged; he is now back on the job as deputy commissioner for Public Health.
"The others are still under investigation," said Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt. The audit does not identify the employees and their names are not expected to be released unless and until charges are filed.
The investigations are under the auspices of the Government Fraud and Corruption Task Force.
IG auditors examined Finance Department payroll records from 1995 to 2000. (Finance also conducted an internal review.) They found that two Health Department employees (one of them Moolenaar) "received erroneous payments consistently from 1995 to 2000." In each case, the employee had presented Finance with one or more 1992 payroll checks that they said had been misplaced and never cashed and so were "stale dated" and in need of replacement.
What was supposed to happen was that Finance would make an adjustment in the employees' next paycheck to include an amount equal to that of the stale-dated checks, in addition to the employees' regular paycheck amount. That required placing a numeral "1" in a box in a computer field. Instead, someone placed an "x" in the box and that resulted in the computer kicking out the adjusted paycheck every second pay period for the next five years.
"There's no way to tell" if the error was intentional without further investigation, Van Beverhoudt said. The Finance employee responsible "isn't here anymore."
But regardless of how it happened, he said the employees receiving the money "should have at least recognized that they were getting too much money." For one thing, "since the adjustments were after tax amounts, they were not included on the employees' annual Wage and Tax Statement (W-2)." In other words, tax payments were not deducted from the overpayments.
Moolenaar received $102,497.85 in extra pay; the other employee, $28,082.25.
The case of two other government employees receiving overpayments is similar. Both worked for Education, and both filed for replacement of lost checks, one in 1995 and the other in 1997. They received fewer overpayments, however. Each was overpaid five times.
A fifth employee received overpayments because of errors in processing his new salaries after promotions. When he was promoted from teacher to assistant principal, his salary increase was at first delayed. "An attempt was made to do a 'Special' payroll run adjusting his salary and paying him his retroactive increase," the audit states.
"For some unexplained reason, the process was stopped without the transaction being closed, resulting in it remaining in the automated system. When his second promotion (to acting principal) was then processed in November 1999, the system also picked up the information for the first promotion and combined them. This resulted in the employee being paid for the two positions at the same time."
About a year later, he had collected an extra $45,977.13. "When informed of the error" the employee surrendered two of his regular pay checks, was not paid for two more pay periods and made an informal agreement to make regular reimbursements. He stepped up the reimbursements after the matter was referred to the Task Force, paying $20,000 in early January and another $20,000 at the end of January.
In response to the findings, Finance has tightened controls over payroll payments. Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull said procedures and policies have been implemented to guard against duplicate payments and to detect any duplications quickly. Additionally, she concurred with the audit recommendation to have the computer software modified so that a pay adjustment cannot be repeated unless it is activated a second time.
Van Beverhoudt said he believes Finance and his office have found all the overpayments involving "stale date" check reimbursements in the past five years.
However, he said, "we're looking into other irregularities."

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The V.I. government overpaid five employees a total of $184,936, and apparently none of them bothered to correct the error. The information is contained in a V.I. Inspector General's audit released Tuesday.
One of the five, Lucien Moolenaar II, already is facing charges in connection with the overpayments. He had been acting Health commissioner but took a leave of absence when he was charged; he is now back on the job as deputy commissioner for Public Health.
"The others are still under investigation," said Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt. The audit does not identify the employees and their names are not expected to be released unless and until charges are filed.
The investigations are under the auspices of the Government Fraud and Corruption Task Force.
IG auditors examined Finance Department payroll records from 1995 to 2000. (Finance also conducted an internal review.) They found that two Health Department employees (one of them Moolenaar) "received erroneous payments consistently from 1995 to 2000." In each case, the employee had presented Finance with one or more 1992 payroll checks that they said had been misplaced and never cashed and so were "stale dated" and in need of replacement.
What was supposed to happen was that Finance would make an adjustment in the employees' next paycheck to include an amount equal to that of the stale-dated checks, in addition to the employees' regular paycheck amount. That required placing a numeral "1" in a box in a computer field. Instead, someone placed an "x" in the box and that resulted in the computer kicking out the adjusted paycheck every second pay period for the next five years.
"There's no way to tell" if the error was intentional without further investigation, Van Beverhoudt said. The Finance employee responsible "isn't here anymore."
But regardless of how it happened, he said the employees receiving the money "should have at least recognized that they were getting too much money." For one thing, "since the adjustments were after tax amounts, they were not included on the employees' annual Wage and Tax Statement (W-2)." In other words, tax payments were not deducted from the overpayments.
Moolenaar received $102,497.85 in extra pay; the other employee, $28,082.25.
The case of two other government employees receiving overpayments is similar. Both worked for Education, and both filed for replacement of lost checks, one in 1995 and the other in 1997. They received fewer overpayments, however. Each was overpaid five times.
A fifth employee received overpayments because of errors in processing his new salaries after promotions. When he was promoted from teacher to assistant principal, his salary increase was at first delayed. "An attempt was made to do a 'Special' payroll run adjusting his salary and paying him his retroactive increase," the audit states.
"For some unexplained reason, the process was stopped without the transaction being closed, resulting in it remaining in the automated system. When his second promotion (to acting principal) was then processed in November 1999, the system also picked up the information for the first promotion and combined them. This resulted in the employee being paid for the two positions at the same time."
About a year later, he had collected an extra $45,977.13. "When informed of the error" the employee surrendered two of his regular pay checks, was not paid for two more pay periods and made an informal agreement to make regular reimbursements. He stepped up the reimbursements after the matter was referred to the Task Force, paying $20,000 in early January and another $20,000 at the end of January.
In response to the findings, Finance has tightened controls over payroll payments. Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull said procedures and policies have been implemented to guard against duplicate payments and to detect any duplications quickly. Additionally, she concurred with the audit recommendation to have the computer software modified so that a pay adjustment cannot be repeated unless it is activated a second time.
Van Beverhoudt said he believes Finance and his office have found all the overpayments involving "stale date" check reimbursements in the past five years.
However, he said, "we're looking into other irregularities."