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Is eSTART the New STAARS?

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Even though the shoddily implemented STAARS accounting software is still causing major headaches for agencies and vendors, the Department of Finances is doubling down on a troubled new time and attendance system named eSTART.

All agencies, major and minor, are reporting unanimously: eSTART doesn’t lives up to the hype.

eSTART is the State’s name for the Kronos time and attendance program that, according to the company’s website, “makes easy work of the tedious tasks involved with monitoring employee time and attendance… simplified time-tracking software — working in tandem with our data collection devices — helps you control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity … without breaking a sweat.”

In 2015, the State paid $4,074,000 to Kronos for the product and has paid $2,275,000 so far in 2016.

Last week, State Auditor Jim Zeigler made his concerns known to Acting Finance Director, Bill Newton, State Comptroller Tom White, and Dr. Joanne Hale, Director of Information Technology. Zeigler informs the trio, “the State Auditor’s Office cannot implement a system that will decrease efficiencies and increase workload for the two support staff we have remaining in our office.”

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He also states that others are refusing to implement what may be a costly failure. Zeigler says the State Personnel Department has pulled out of the project. We could not confirm this by the deadline, but other department heads have privately told the Alabama Political Reporter they want out, too.

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One individual, with a staff of around 12 employees, says the new system is like having another full-time job. Others are dealing with employees not receiving checks or checks being inaccurate. “The people in my department can’t go two weeks without a paycheck and when an employee doesn’t get paid or get the right amount it hurts not only them and their family but the morale of the whole department,” said one manager said on conditions of anonymity, because of fear of reprisal.

Like with STAARS, there is a general fear that Newton, and even Gov. Bentley, are ready to punish those who publicly reveal the eSTART debacle; and privately they are disheartened and angry.

The company Software Advice offers proprietary research and user reviews on a host of products.

Kronos receives mixed reviews from, “Multiple glitches requiring necessity of Payroll Department writing supplemental checks for employees,” to, “We have been very pleased with this product.”

Department heads and agency chiefs alike have complained to Newton, but they say it has fallen on deaf ears.

Zeigler, never being faint of heart or lacking in grit, is standing up to what he sees as another costly waste of taxpayer money and employees’ valuable time.

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