Employees at the Department of Homeland Security routinely bill unworked overtime hours, according to seven whistleblowers at six different offices, and the overtime pool — referred to by some employees as a "candy bowl" — is even advertised as a "perk" to new hires.
The abuse, the Washington Post reports, is thanks to an overtime option known as Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO), intended for use by agents who are given urgent work that couldn't be scheduled in advance.
Instead, office employees routinely bill an extra two AUO hours at the end of the day, often passing the time just sitting at their desks.
“It’s pickpocketing Uncle Sam,” whistleblower Jose Rafae Ducos Bello told the Washington Post. “Employees will sit at their desks for an extra two hours, catching up on Netflix, talking to friends or using it for commuting time.”
Ducos Bello, a Customs supervisor, estimated that 27 employees in his office bilked a total of $696,000.
Investigators estimate that in the six offices alone, abuse totals around $8.7 million. Department-wide, that figure could be in the tens of millions.
The Office of the Special Counsel released a report on the abuses and continues to investigate, but the union representing more than 17,o00 employees is pushing back, saying that AUO is “promised, advertised and used by every single agent who’s a non-supervisor.”
"Suddenly now the party line from the agency is this is not part of your base salary," National Border Patrol Council vice president Shawn Moran told the Washington Post. "There's been a mentality shift in CBP about securing the border; now it's about securing the bottom line."
[image via AP]