The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility in Laredo, Texas, was one five locations nationwide where whistleblowers raised allegations that overtime policies were being abused and that a “gross waste” of funds was being permitted. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) reported that these abuses were costing taxpayers $8.7 million every year.
The whistleblower’s complaints indicated the problem was spread throughout Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This problem has been ongoing, as similar allegations were raised in 2008, at which time DHS claimed it would address the problem.
The allegations involve the use of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO), which is designed to permit employees of agencies like CBP, who are engaged in time-sensitive work or in an active criminal investigation, to complete their work, rather than just stop when the reach the end of the scheduled shift.
One of the circumstance of overtime abuse involved employees in the “situation room” who claimed AUO 89 percent of the time, despite not working on active criminal investigations. Much of the time was apparently used watching sports and entertainment programs on television.
The whistleblowers were told they could use this type of overtime and they were uneasy with this situation and reported it.
Head of the Office of Special Counsel, Carolyn Lerner said in a letter that, “This case is not an isolated occurrence. Rather, it is part of a persistent pattern of AUO [Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime] allegations raised by DHS employees.”
Employees who report wrongdoing like this may want to consult with an attorney to ensure that all the proper procedures are followed and that they can protect themselves from potential retaliation that may result.
Source: KTEK.com, “Whistleblowers: Homeland employees earn OT while watching TV,” CNN, November 2, 2013