Wed | May 27, 2020

Cash grab - Millions in unauthorised overtime payments uncovered in public sector

Published:Wednesday | December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM
Pamela Monroe Ellis, Auditor General

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

MORE THAN $100 million in unauthorised overtime payments within the public sector has been unearthed by the Auditor General's Department.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, in her annual report tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, pointed to two massive overtime bills in the ministries of Finance and the Public Service, Security as well as Labour and Social Security.

The Customs Department, which falls under the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, has come out a major culprit with the auditor general finding overtime payments totalling $86.9 million for the period April to December 2011.

The Government's policy prohibits the payment of Crown overtime to annually paid staff.

The auditor general also found a major cause of "excessive and unplanned overtime" payment at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

"Overtime pay ranged from 11 per cent to 129 per cent of the employees' gross salary per annum. We found that $31 million was paid in 2011 without the submission of the requisite work plans and estimates for the work to be undertaken," Monroe Ellis said in her report.

She noted, however, that the ministry "has since indicated that overtime or honorarium activities will be curtailed with the restriction of weekend activities".

This is not the first time Monroe Ellis has discovered such unauthorised payment of overtime at the Customs Department.

In her 2010 report, Monroe Ellis brought it to the attention of Parliament that overtime payments were made to members of staff, including senior directors, contrary to Ministry of the Public Service Circular number 15 dated May 21, 1976, which prohibits the payment of overtime to annually paid staff.

"From a sample of Crown overtime payments totalling $9.7 million paid during September to October 2009, $9.2 million was made to annually paid officers," the auditor general said three years ago.

She added: "The department was advised to discontinue the payments of overtime until the specific approval is obtained from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service."

With the situation not addressed, Monroe Ellis has again urged compliance with the government policy.

"The overtime paid to warehouse employees was not pre-approved as required. We advised management to conduct a workload assessment and recommended ways to reduce the need for overtime and also to ensure compliance with MOFP guidelines," Monroe Ellis said.

Meanwhile, the auditor general has pointed to issues of inadequate control over employees' records and payroll system at St Joseph's Teachers' College.

Strengthen controls

According to Monroe Ellis, "The college did not ensure that formal letters of employment and leave records were on file. The internal controls over the payroll system needed to be strengthened. The bursar did not present to the auditors the requisite control records and validation reports from the bank to confirm the accuracy of the payroll."

She added: "Additionally, the salary changes bore no evidence that they were checked by a senior officer. The watchmen were paid overtime but an attendance register was not in place to enable verification of the hours claimed."

She found that St Joseph's Teachers' College overpaid 21 officers approximately $4.6 million due to erroneous computation of salary, travel allowances and overtime.

"Further, several persons were paid travel allowances although the relevant documents and claims were not presented," the auditor general stated.