An audit of the Health Department has uncovered more than $2.2 million in overtime paid to employees over a two-year period, much of it without documentation or approval.
The audit released Friday by the V.I. Inspector General's office revealed many serious discrepancies in monitoring and calculating overtime. The report even suggested that some of the incorrect overtime computations might exist in the overall payroll system of the V.I. Government.
In a letter to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt said, "We found that employees were claiming significant amounts of overtime without documented approval; there was no monitoring to ensure that the overtime was actually required or worked; and overtime payments were calculated incorrectly."
In the years covered by the audit, 1997 and 1998, four employees were paid $212,000 for overtime claimed. Two of them were maintenance supervisors who reportedly had to pick up the slack from a severely understaffed maintenance department.
However, there was little evidence for the other two of prior approval and the supporting documentation was "questionable."
One employee, the director of financial services, was paid for 1,348 hours of overtime over the two years covered by the audit. Only 162 hours had been approved by a supervisor. Of that, 123 hours were approved after the overtime was already worked.
The same employee, who retired from the department in December 1998, claimed to have worked 36 out of 52 Saturdays, 22 out of 52 Sundays, and nine out of 20 holidays in 1997. In 1998 the same employee claimed to have worked 40 of 52 Saturdays, 22 of 52 Sundays and nine out of 20 holidays.
The director's overtime, on top of her base salary of $60,000, amounted to earnings of $110,170 in 1997 and $98,017 in 1998.
The payroll supervisor, who also retired in December 1998, logged similar overtime hours, resulting in overtime payments of $26,348 in 1997 and $22,947 in 1998 on top of a salary of $30,321.
Both of these individuals had been claiming similar overtime since 1990 which, for the years that records were available, resulted in total overtime payments of $254,028 and $163,379 respectively.
The matter is being investigated by the V.I. Justice Department.
As a result of incorrect computations — they were paid double time instead of the appropriate time and a half — the same two supervisors were overpaid a total of $61,000 over the two years covered by the audit.
The other two supervisors who fell under the miscalculation overpayment were both maintenance supervisors.
The matter of the miscalculations will be discussed with the Justice Department to decide if the money can be recouped from the employees, van Beverhoudt's audit said.
The Finance commissioner recommended that the Justice Department be called in to find out if the mistaken double-time payments are being repeated in other government departments. However, while van Beverhoudt agreed that Justice should follow up on arranging reimbursement, he said each department should be directed to review their overtime records for a specific time period to ensure that overtime was recorded correctly.
The audit also exposed the widespread practice of paying employees even when time cards were not properly executed.
In one instance a time card was blank for a particular pay period, but the employee was still paid for 104 hours, including 24 hours of overtime for one two-week pay period.
In another instance an employee punched in and out for eight hours a day during the work week, but entered overtime on Saturdays and Sundays manually. The employee claimed 32 hours in overtime for that one pay period.
The audit discovered "numerous" examples of the same kinds of abuses.
Again, the IG recommended the overtime situation be turned over to Justice for investigation. Acting Health Commissioner Lucien A. Moolenaar agreed, saying the department's legal counsel was preparing the necessary documents to do that.
Moolenaar has also put the supervisory staff on notice that they must adhere to standard procedures for overtime, including requests for approval submitted to his office along with the reason for overtime at least five days before the requested work time, strict monitoring of performance to ensure overtime was actually required and performed, and proper review and approval of time cards to include the supervisors' signatures.