U.S. special counsel Carolyn N. Lerner sent a letter to President Obama and Congress last week detailing overtime abuses at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that cost taxpayers potentially tens of millions of dollars annually. Six DHS offices alone are costing the taxpayers approximately $8.7 million annually.
Under federal regulations, Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO) is limited to “irregular” or “occasional” circumstances, such as situations where failure to stay on duty “would constitute negligence.”
Despite this definition, thousands of DHS employees routinely file for AUO, claiming up to two hours a day, nearly every day, even in headquarters and training assignments where no qualifying circumstances are likely to exist.…[E]mployees who ‘work’ overtime frequently watch sports and entertainment channels during their claimed AUO periods, or spend the two additional hours at their duty station relaxing, joking, surfing the internet, and taking care of personal matters.
The report “confirms that [DHS] employees in Washington, D.C., claim to have worked two hours of AUO following their assigned shift 89 percent of the time. These routine AUO payments…‘functionally [extend] their daily shift by two hours each day,’ but are not the result of any unpredictable or compelling law enforcement need.… This case is not an isolated occurrence. It is part of a persistent pattern of AUO allegations raised by DHS employees. Such abuse of overtime pay is a violation of the public trust and a gross waste of scarce government funds.”
Agencies involved include Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.