HELENA – About 4,800 Montana state employees got an unexpected, extra payroll deposit last week – but the payment was an error, which state officials said they quickly discovered.

The extra payment into employees’ bank accounts last Thursday occurred because of a miscommunication between the state and US Bank, which is testing a new direct-deposit mechanism for state employees, said Jason Pitt, spokesman for the state Department of Administration.

Pitt told MTN News Wednesday the error was discovered almost immediately, and that US Bank has been working with other banks to recover the money mistakenly deposited in the employees’ accounts.

“Upon learning of the technical miscommunication, we took swift action to correct it,” he said. “Government accountability and efficiency are priority one.”

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Technical personnel for the state and US Bank had been preparing to switch to the new system, and US Bank personnel thought last week’s transfer was live, rather than a test, Pitt said.

State employees get paid on a Wednesday, every two weeks, and regular paychecks went out last week. The erroneous payments occurred the next day, but state officials notified employees of the mistake shortly after the payment was made.

In an email obtained by MTN, an agency official said last Thursday the deposit was a “test file” and that the amount would be “reversed.”

US Bank operates the state’s direct-deposit of payroll checks to employees’ personal bank accounts, if they choose to have direct deposit.

Pitt said because the mistake was noticed quickly, employees likely didn’t have any opportunity to spend the extra money deposited in their account.

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