An overtime program within the Department of Homeland Security is being suspended after officials found it is abusively costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
In an October letter to the White House, Carolyn Lerner with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said, “I write to express deep concerns about long-standing abuse of overtime payments by the DHS.”
Tuesday, employees in DHS learned those same overtime payments Lerner expressed “deep concerns about” are being suspended.
The program, Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, is designed to be used only when an employee’s hours cannot fit into a normal schedule because of an irregular amount of work. AUO was the recent subject of congressional hearings.
The suspension of these benefits came just before another hearing on the matter Tuesday.
According to Lerner, whistleblowers stepped forward with information detailing abuse of AUO overtime at six DHS offices. The abuse at those offices costs taxpayers approximately $8.7 million a year.
Lerner called it a “gross waste of government funds.”
The overtime suspension applies to full-time training instructors, employees working in department agency headquarters and anyone DHS investigators believe have improperly received the overtime.
Proper use of the overtime would include DHS employees using the extra time to effectively secure the U.S. borders, Lerner said.
Some examples of the abuse exposed by whistleblowers to Lerner and the Office of Special Counsel:
- At the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services headquarters facility in Washington, D.C., everyone in the Office of Security and Integrity claimed 10 hours of AUO every week, even though no employee actually worked those hours.
- At the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Houston, employees are directed to stay beyond their normal duty hours to finish tasks that are not time-sensitive or investigative.
- At the CBP facility in San Ysidro, Calif., border patrol agents at the Asset Forfeiture Office regularly claim two hours of AUO each day, but don’t perform duties that qualify for the overtime.
These examples are not isolated, according to the letter from Lerner, and instead are part of a “persistent pattern of AUO allegations raised by DHS employees.”