The federal government has struggled for years to ferret out employee abuse of overtime pay—which costs taxpayers tens of millions of extra dollars a year. Last year, auditors reported that workers were pocketing an extra $5 million of unearned pay at the Department of Homeland Security while their supervisors looked the other way.
Now, another agency seems to be plagued with similar problems.
In a new inspector general report, auditors slammed the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for allowing workers to collect millions in overtime without having any way to verify if they should actually receive it. The IG concluded that without any way to know if the agency was paying the appropriate amount, there was likely an increased risk of “fraud and abuse” within the payment system.
For example, 98 percent of the overtime hours billed at the agency’s mission in Afghanistan didn’t get verified at all. That amounts to more than $16 million that went into employees’ pockets unchecked.
The main issue, auditors said, was from the payment system software. When employees claim overtime, they aren’t required to document why they qualified for it, so there was no information provided to help the agency verify it. Instead, supervisors simply approved what was requested without challenging the need for the overtime.
Though agency officials acknowledged that the current payroll system could result in some problems, they stood by it, arguing that its flexibility is better for their employees. They said that adding more explanatory requirements would make it difficult for employees to collect pay in certain circumstances in a timely manner. Auditors recommended that the agency develop a strategy to coordinate better oversight of the overtime pay and USAID officials concurred.
Meanwhile, offices within the Department of Homeland Security have began developing ways to curb abuse of their employees’ overtime pay as well.
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