Federal Overtime Pay Abuses

Thank goodness for whistleblowers in the government, whether regarding intelligence activities or the mundane bureaucratic waste that occurs in every department. Congress does a generally pathetic job of oversight and presidential administrations are rarely transparent—despite their promises. So the citizens who pay for our $3.6-trillion government rely on federal workers who witness illegal and unethical activities to come forward and inform the press.

The Washington Post reports today:

Federal employees at the Department of Homeland Security call it the “candy bowl,” a pot of overtime money they have long dipped into to pad their pay even if they haven’t earned it, whistleblowers say. This practice, which can add up to 25 percent to a paycheck, has become so routine over the last generation that it’s often held out as a perk when government managers try to recruit new employees…

The problem with government is that bad behaviors and anti-productive cultures become engrained over time because there is no built-in mechanism to rout it out. In the private sector, that is the role of profit-seeking and competition.

More from the Post:

“It’s pickpocketing Uncle Sam,” [whistleblower] Ducos Bello said in an interview. “Employees will sit at their desks for an extra two hours, catching up on Netflix, talking to friends or using it for commuting time.” He estimated that 27 employees in the Commissioner’s Situation Room, which is part of Customs and Border Protection, improperly put in for a total of $696,000. They ranged from managers, who received up to $34,000 each, to border patrol agents, who received $24,500 each, he said. “It was such misuse that I felt I had a legal obligation to report. I will sleep better at night,” said Ducos Bello, a 24-year veteran of government employment.

Another whistleblower, Jimmy Elam, a supervisory paralegal specialist for Customs and Border Protection in San Diego, reported that eight administrative employees at his location received a total of $150,000 of improper [overtime pay] a year. “It happens day after day, year after year,” Elam said in an interview. “They are sometimes working, sometimes goofing off or just unaccountable completely.”

Thank you, Mr. Bello and Mr. Elam. You are patriots.

James Madison famously noted: “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Whistleblowers are one of those controls. They inform citizens not only how the government is feathering its own nest, but what the government is doing to us. Most federal departments have far too many tentacles manipulating the affairs of state and local governments, businesses, and individuals.

Stay tuned for upcoming analyses at DownsizingGovernment on slimming down DHS.