Confusion over employee status during the partial government shutdown caused the Interior Department’s Business Center to wrongly send normal paycheck deposits to the bank accounts of some 30 staffers at the Chemical Safety Board, Government Executive has learned.
On Friday, an email to the small investigative agency’s full staff from “a senior level agency political official” had the subject line “Pay Period 1 Update: Deposits appear to have been made in error.”
The email, confirmed by a CSB spokesperson, said, “If you check your bank account this morning, you are likely to find that you were paid. As I reported to you last night, IBC made an error in processing the payroll for Pay Period 1 and no staff, furloughed or exempt, should have been paid. PLEASE DO NOT ACCESS THE FUNDS. We are working with IBC to determine how to remedy this situation and it is best if you don’t access the funds.”
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The Interior Business Center, which for 30 years has provided payroll services for some 150 federal organizations, including, as of 2013, 42 agencies, also confirmed the error to Government Executive.
An Interior Department official said only the Chemical Safety Board was affected.
Payroll program coders at the business center became “confused about the three different pay codes” for employees who are furloughed, excepted or exempt, the official said. “It sounds like it could be an overarching issue, but it was only the CSB.”
After the money went out, the center heard from the CSB that there had been a mistake that required rectification. CSB then contacted employees “on its own accord,” the Interior official added. The center then contacted all the banks involved. By early afternoon, all but four had complied, the official said. The IBC is now working with the Treasury Department on getting the final four banks to fix the problem.
The CSB is currently operating under an interim chairman, with two vacancies on its five-member board.