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Thursday, June 16, 2011 05:47 am

IDOT overtime excessive

Audit finds lax department oversight

The Illinois Department of Transportation last fiscal year spent more than $33 million in overtime costs. But in several cases Illinois’ auditor general couldn’t tell why overtime was necessary or find records of actual hours worked.

In an audit of IDOT released last Thursday, June 9, Illinois’ Auditor General William Holland found that employees who were paid for hundreds of hours of overtime had no documentation to prove they worked those hours and that reasons listed for overtime work were either not recorded or did not seem reasonable.

While one employee recorded having worked 32 hours straight, another employee, the audit notes, was paid for 385 hours of overtime work, none of which was documented. Others – about 20 percent of those sampled – reported working overtime but provided no explanations for why those hours were necessary, making it impossible for auditors to determine if the overtime was reasonable.

“Failure to implement adequate controls over employee overtime increases the risk that the department will pay for services not rendered by employees or will pay overtime when it is not necessary,” Holland concludes in the audit.

In the department’s last audit, IDOT was cited for not following its policy requiring supervisors to approve overtime work before employees accrued the extra hours. Following that report, the department simply changed its policy and no longer requires pre-approval.

The audit also says that IDOT isn’t doing a good job of keeping track of when employees come and go. In about 40 percent of sampled cases, supervisors had not approved time sheets, and in many instances employees’ actual work schedules didn’t match up with their official schedules.

Some of the time sheet findings had also been identified in the department’s previous 2009 audit, after which IDOT stated it had updated its employee manuals to clearly outline the appropriate procedures for documenting overtime and time-off requests.

“Department management stated, as they did during the prior engagement, that employees were not always mindful of the attendance policies,” IDOT’s most recent audit states. This time, IDOT officials responded that the department is now looking for ways to change how overtime is reported, both through policy and technology.

The audit released last week also found that the department paid more than $740,000 in duplicate payments to outside vendors, including a double payment for a rail improvement project in the amount of nearly $514,000.

The department also overstated millions of dollars worth of inventory, in one case incorrectly labeling 7,000 pounds of salt as 7,000 tons, a $2.7 million difference. Auditors found that 16 percent of the items they checked were miscounted and that 20 of 60 sampled items had incorrect prices attached to them.

In response to the auditor’s findings, IDOT says it is creating a task force that by the end of 2011 will issue recommendations for fixing the problems.

IDOT was also cited for several instances of poor financial reporting, which it blamed on a wave of retiring employees. Besides cross-training existing employees, IDOT says it has increased the head count in its fiscal operations unit.

Contact Rachel Wells at rwells@illinoistimes.com.
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