This is enough to make taxpayers angry. Workers from six Homeland Security Department offices have abused an overtime program — and cost the government about $8.7 million a year, according an Office of Special Counsel letter and report sent recently to the president and Congress, reports Business Insider.
Whistleblowers alerted Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, who has given the details to the President and lawmakers. According to Lerner, her office is investigating five other overtime abuse cases and expects the allegations to be substantiated.
One whistleblower told the Office of Special Counsel, which is an independent government investigative and prosecutorial office, that some Customs and Border Protection employees assigned to the commissioner’s situation room at its Washington headquarters were paid about two hours of overtime nearly every day but spent much of that time watching television, using the Internet or relaxing at their desks.
Other offices cited in the report include The Office of Security and Integrity at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services headquarters in Washington; The Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Houston; and CBP facilities in San Ysidro, Calif., and Laredo, Texas.
“Such abuse of overtime pay is a violation of the public trust and a gross waste of scarce government funds,” Lerner wrote in her letter to the White House. “It is incumbent upon DHS to take effective steps to curb the abuse. It is up to the administration and Congress to develop a revised pay system, if warranted, that ensures fair compensation for employees who are legitimately working overtime.”
It was The Washington Post who first reported the details of Lerner’s letter and report.
Overtime costs have long been an issue for Homeland Security as federal budgets have continued to be slashed. Border Patrol overtime costs in 2012, the agency spent more than $1.4 billion on overtime costs, found an Associated Press analysis. Agents are regularly paid an average of two hours of overtime daily. Over the course of a year, an agent can received about $15,000 more than the base salary. The base salary for a more experienced agent is typically more than $60,000 a year. Agents can make up to $35,000 in overtime annually.
“The cost of overtime rose from about $155.8 million in 2006 to more than $331 million in 2011. That increase coincides with the addition of about 9,000 agents in the past six years and the drop of apprehensions to a nearly 40-year low, from more than 1 million arrests in 2006 to about 340,000 in 2011,” reports Business Insider.