A letter submitted to the White House and Congress by the Office of Special Counsel says that Department of Homeland Security employees are claiming overtime they didn’t actually work. This apparently has been going on for some time, and officials insist that it’s costing the department millions of dollars a year and increasing workers' paychecks by up to 25 percent.
The false overtime claims by employees falls under Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, or AUO. This, essentially, is work that pops up in the case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstance, and is supposed to be used, “only when an employee's hours cannot be scheduled in advance due to a substantial amount of irregular work."
Employees have been claiming AUO for years, and it’s reported that it has cost the department nearly $8.7 million annually, even though the employees aren’t actually working the defined AUO hours. The letter to the White House reads, “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."
“These are not border patrol guys chasing bad guys who can’t stop what they are doing and fill out paperwork for overtime. We are not questioning that,” said Carolyn Lerner, special counsel at the OSC, to the Washington Post. “These are employees sitting at their desks, collecting overtime because it’s become a culturally acceptable practice.”
Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Peter Boogaard responded to the claims, sort of, saying that they are investigating the matter.
“DHS takes seriously its responsibility to ensure proper use of taxpayer funds,” said Boogaard. “While many frontline officers and agents across the department require work hour flexibility, often through the use of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO), misuse of these funds is not tolerated.”