invoice-management-fraud-thumbYou would think that organizations with the chief purpose of providing order wouldn’t need a time and attendance solution to keep timesheets fraud-free and accurate, but several recent cases show that even those who “should know better” sometimes don’t.

Detroit TV station WXYZ was first to report on a payroll fraud scheme that involved officers of the Detroit Police. Here’s how it worked: Officer Kim Mosby-Colbert was the “timekeeper” in the Southwest District. According to the station, Mosby-Colbert was using the position to exercise a little creativity on her own timesheet.

Mosby-Colbert initially denied any wrongdoing, but eventually she pleaded guilty to bilking the cash-strapped city of $30,000 for hours she did not work. Unraveling the scheme required an audit by a commander, a step that might not have been necessary had the a financial productivity solution that offered a more granular view of individual timesheets. With such software, exorbitant overtime charges for an 8 a.m.-to-4 p.m. office employee might have stuck out sooner, like a sore thumb.

‘Rampant’ timesheet fraud in San Jose

A federal lawsuit in northern California uncovered an even larger pattern of abuse in the San Jose police department. The case was filed by officer Thomas Correa, who alleged he was forced to retire from a 27-year career after he refused to take part in systematic timesheet fraud. He says he was branded a “snitch” and even physically assaulted, according to broadcast reports.

The lawsuit says officers set up a system that double-staffed operations one day a week – one team would show up for work and fill in timesheets for the other team, which spent the day taking long breaks, going to movies or going home early.

“Many police officers feel justified in committing such fraud because of the City Council’s attempt to reduce wages and benefits,” the case alleged. “Many officers view this fraud as a way of making things ‘even.’”

Again, automated timesheet management provides a remedy for such situations by enabling top-to-bottom transparency. It’s doubtful crooked officers could get away with such a scheme long if managers had constant visibility instead of shuffling stacks of timesheets.

Fraud Doesn’t Always Happen on a Grand Scale

By contrast, though, most timesheet fraud gets far less media attention because it involves private employees on a smaller scale. It usually involves less-conspicuous methods as well, such as “buddy punching” (punching in for someone else) or simply recording the incorrect amount of time. These actions – sometimes inadvertent – can nibble a business to death, one hour at a time.

Cracking down on timesheet fraud means getting the right message across to employees – corner-cutting will not be permitted and will be dealt with seriously.

But the right message will be toothless if the bosses don’t know what’s going on. That means having an automated systems that forces employees to be physically present when they clock in. Automation tools also can reduce losses due to inadvertent errors or inefficient processes, and they can cut losses accrued from calculation errors, manual data entry and other problems.

On top of all that, automation saves time. And what organization can’t use a little more of that?

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