I realize that California is experiencing a fiscal meltdown. Layoff notices are flying all around the ranks of government workers. In the midst of all this drama would you believe that I got a job with the State of California? No I didn’t land a cushy appointment from the Governor. I started as a lowly paper pusher for the Department of Corrections. Yes the same department that just sent out over 1,500 layoff notices!
I interviewed and was hired a week before the notices were sent out in May. I did part of my pre-employment paperwork in May; most notably the Form I-9. I had to speak with four different people before I could convince them that a passport was the only document required, (I only spent 15 years doing HR and payroll and I know what documents you need to check to hire someone.) The third week after I reported to work, I finally got fingerprinted and filled out the IRS Form W-4.
Interestingly, I signed the form with the oath required by state employees to uphold the constitution twice but neither time did anyone actually administer the oath to me. The second time, the person helping me with the paperwork even signed the portion saying they were a witness to the oath being administered—even though they never administered the oath. Go figure!
The conditions in the office were surprisingly Spartan. There are virtually no office supplies in the supply room. Employees are cannibalizing empty cubicles for supplies. The supply cabinets consist of odd sized Post-it Notes, red pens, typewriter ribbons and tractor feed labels. After trying two calculators that were both broken, I ended-up bringing my calculator from home.
My four year old has a better computer than I was given at the government office. The HP that I run at work is a real dinosaur. It is slow. I’m sure the video memory is shared with RAM which makes it even slower. The user rights are fairly locked-down and I can’t install any programs or run Windows Update. My son’s computer is dual core with 640 MB of video memory. It is very fast running XP Professional.
Every copy machine in the office is either dead or on its last legs. I have difficulty getting my work done when I can’t make copies. I thought about bring in my flatbed scanner just to run copies but I don’t have rights to install any programs.
Contrary to what you would expect in government service, there are no procedure manuals for the work I am currently doing. I am processing paper forms that are then entered on a mainframe program that was probably new in the 1980s. It takes days to process the forms for payment. Partially this is because the people filling out the forms don’t follow directions. All the places they leave blank or incomplete I have to fix. I then have to check all math on the forms. I must then hand-code all entries and write them on the form. I have to check vendor setup in the mainframe and then check for advance payments prior to authorizing A/P entries into the system. After several more tedious steps, I have to do some more antiquated procedures. The copy of the paperwork that is sent to the State Controller for payment is literally held together with string. I had to salvage a three-hole punch and rig it as a two-hole punch to get holes in the paper for the string to go thru!
There is a system that employees can use to do this online and deliver folks like me from as much paperwork but the computerized system is only optional. This system is also obsolete but the new accounting program used by the rest of the state is not yet compatible with what I’m doing.