SHAHEEN CALLS FOR GAO INVESTIGATION ON REPORTED DHS OVERTIME PAYMENT ABUSES

November 01, 2013

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is calling for an investigation into the potential widespread and systemic abuse of overtime payments at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) following recent reports based on whistleblower testimony released by the Office of Special Counsel. 

“An independent investigation is necessary for Congress to fully understand the extent to which federal funds have been wasted and institute the reforms necessary to ensure the proper stewardship of scarce resources moving forward,” Shaheen wrote in a letter sent today to Government Accountability Office Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

Shaheen expressed particular concern about the appearance that “fiscal mismanagement” and the abuse of overtime pay “appears to be a systemic issue.”

Shaheen, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has led an ongoing, bipartisan effort toward promoting greater accountability of taxpayer dollars in government spending. The Senate Appropriations Committee included Shaheen’s request in its FY 2014 Defense Appropriations for additional resources for the Department of Defense Inspectors General (IG) to enhance their ability to fight waste, fraud and abuse. Shaheen is a sponsor of The Government Contractor Accountability Act of 2013 (S.664), which would make federal agencies more responsive to Inspectors General recommendations when it comes to potential cost-saving measures or on reimbursement for poor contractor performance and cost overruns. 

The full text of Shaheen’s letter is below:

November 1, 2013

Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General

Government Accountability Office

441 G St. NW

Washington, DC 20548

Dear Comptroller General Dodaro:

I write to respectfully request that you investigate the potential widespread and systematic abuse of overtime payments at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as detailed in a recently disclosed report based on whistleblower testimony released by the Office of Special Counsel.  Given the impact of automatic budget cuts on a wide array of important federal programs, it is imperative that we fully uncover the extent to which DHS employees allegedly exploited compensation policies and prevent any further waste of taxpayer funds.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) first raised allegations of serious fiscal mismanagement with regard to overtime pay at DHS in 2008.  While the Department agreed at that time to take steps to address the issue and restrict overtime compensation to only those employees performing “unpredictable” or “compelling” law enforcement functions, the OSC report indicates a persistent unwillingness among Department management to confront this urgent problem.  For example, even after agency leadership committed to take corrective action, the cost of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO) paid by a single DHS component, Customs and Border Protection, nearly doubled.

I am particularly concerned about abuse of overtime pay at DHS given that it appears to be a systemic issue, as OSC found a similar pattern of inappropriate claims at six different facilities run by three separate agencies.  Although I am pleased that Acting Secretary Beers has committed to perform a department-wide review of overtime compensation policies, an independent investigation is necessary for Congress to fully understand the extent to which federal funds have been wasted and institute the reforms necessary to ensure the proper stewardship of scarce resources moving forward.  It is imperative that GAO specifically address the following questions:

  • How much money did DHS spend under the Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime pay authority in each of fiscal years 2008 through 2013?
  • Of those payments, how much AUO was claimed by employees detailed to headquarters or training facilities?
  • How much AUO was claimed by employees engaged primarily in administrative and managerial functions?
  • Are there verified instances of DHS agency recruitment efforts specifying that prospective hires can rely on routine overtime pay in addition to their salary?
  • What managerial controls are in place to certify that work performed during AUO periods was justified?
  • Does DHS have any collective bargaining obligations that could complicate the implementation of agency-wide directive to eliminate the inappropriate use of AUO?
  • Are there any statistical patterns in AUO claims department-wide that indicate AUO has been inappropriately used by particular agencies or their components?

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.

 Sincerely,

 

 Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senate