Pressure from Tester halts government pay abuse, saves taxpayer dollars
(U.S. SENATE) - Senator Jon Tester's hard work to rein in abuse of the overtime pay system at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) paid big dividends for American taxpayers today.
In advance of Tester's Homeland Security hearing on overtime abuse, department officials announced they are suspending the use of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO) for many of the department's estimated 28,000 employees currently eligible for AUO.
Recent revelations show that Homeland Security employees have for years abused AUO, a fund meant to compensate workers who must sometimes stay on duty beyond normal business hours, such as law enforcement officers who must respond to criminal activity.
Tester in November demanded that the department explain why it failed for years to crackdown on reports of overtime abuse, and today's hearing aimed to hold DHS accountable for the lack of progress.
"The abuse of overtime of any kind is extremely troubling," said Catherine Emerson, Chief Human Capital Officer. "Investigations uncovered both abuse and inappropriate application, and DHS has taken several actions as a result. Yesterday, Secretary Johnson signed a memo to direct the heads of DHS to suspend the use of AUO for certain categories of employees."
"While I am pleased to see DHS taking action, it is long overdue," Tester said at today's hearing. "We all greatly appreciate the work being done by the men and women at the Department of Homeland Security, however the employee actions and misuse of public funds are unacceptable. We need to learn more about how DHS is responding to the recent investigative report and what disciplinary actions are being taken."
DHS allowed the overtime abuse to continue for years despite a 2008 investigation and a subsequent promise from department officials to stop the practice. It is estimated that the practice is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Tester heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce. Along with his panel's Ranking Member, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), he called on then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Rand Beers in November to take action to stop the abuse.
DHS will suspend AUO pay for the following employees while it reviews its overtime pay policy:
- Employees who work in component headquarters offices and whose duties do not meet the regulatory requirements for the use of AUO;
- Employees engaged as full-time training instructors;
- Employees to whom internal investigators have determined that the Department is inappropriately providing AUO pay.
In addition to Emerson, Office of Special Counsel head Carolyn Lerner, Deputy Chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ron Vitiello and President of the National Border Control Council Brandon Judd testified before Tester's subcommittee.
Video from today's hearing is available online HERE. An investigative report into AUO abuse by the Office of Special Counsel is available online HERE.