Home Asides DiNapoli to target overtime in forensic audit

DiNapoli to target overtime in forensic audit

by Benjamin Kabak

After months of political grandstanding by New York State’s elected officials, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced today that he will begin a forensic audit of the MTA’s finances. As DiNapoli recently found systematic abuses of overtime, the comptroller’s probe will focus on work rules and overtime oversight but will explore the entire MTA financial picture. “Something is wrong with a system that allows more than 140 people to double their salaries through overtime,” DiNapoli said on Monday. “It’s hard to justify repeated fare hikes, layoffs and service reductions when New Yorkers believe the MTA isn’t controlling spending and restraining costs. For too long, the MTA has had a culture of acceptance when it comes to overtime abuse. That has to change.”

DiNapoli says he will target “excessive overtime” in this audit and recognizes that the MTA’s new leadership is committed to fiscal responsibility as well. “There is a relatively new leadership there,” he said. “They said they’re going to do a top-to-bottom review of operations. We want to be sure that overtime is a key part of what they are reviewing.” For its part, the MTA said it won’t resist the comptroller’s probe. “We welcome the controller’s assistance as we continue to fulfill our commitment to reduce overtime,” Jeremy Soffin, MTA spokesman, said to The Daily News.

DiNapoli says he’ll refer his report to state prosecutors if he uncovers any potentially illegal wrong-doing, but I’m more concerned with the state’s legislative response than I am with its criminal response. A so-called forensic audit that uncovers systematic overtime abuses would be news worthy of a “dog bites man” headline, and New York’s politicians are sure to fault the MTA for any widespread examples of waste. But the true test will be in the state’s actions. Since the MTA is a creature of the state, its politicians can change work rules that lead to rampant overtime — if rampant overtime abuses indeed exist. The politicians can change the structure of the MTA to better consolidate its various subagencies. The politicians can enact better fiscal management and more thorough oversight. They can grandstand all they want, but without real action, the structural problems of the MTA will continue ad infinitum.

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Matt August 30, 2010 - 1:53 pm

As these people probably have the same 2.5 multiplier as anyone else, I applaud the MTA for working its own staff as hard as possible and not hiring more people. If people are cheating, that’s bad, but many of these guys are probably working around the clock. Better them than me. It’s still cheaper than hiring a new person.

Al D August 30, 2010 - 2:04 pm

Mr. DiNapoli should have a busy calendar then. Since OT abuse is used to pad pensions throughout the civil services system, I hope that this is the first of a forensice audit of EVERY state body under Mr. DiNapoli’s jurisdiction. Otherwise, he is simply targeting the MTA as easy political fodder.

And since when did he become an arm of the Attorney General’s Office with this attempt to discover criminal activity? Doesn’t the MTA have its own IG? 1-800-MTA-IG4U.

Sharon August 30, 2010 - 10:37 pm

The problem with this audit is that the MTA’s rules and procedure’s are so lax that many of the offenders will simply have incomplete paperwork which can not be used to bring anyone up on charges. The solution is to rework every process to require explicit series of paperwork(computer based system) to justify overtime. Camera’s in all Depots, all workers must sign in with a smartcard or biometric identification toll etc. Self reporting or simple low level supervisor approval is the receipt for fraud. This comes from a former forensic investigator.

Bus operating proceedures that penalize driver for being early but allow some drivers to create thier own delay and overtime need to change.

The mta can save $10’s of millions by imploying common sense operating rule changes many that are allowed under the current union contracts. They must also eliminate manual bus monitoring. In the year 2010 their are still men sitting on a corner writing down what time a bus passes.

Nathanael September 5, 2010 - 10:23 pm

The real problem with all these ‘state audits’ is that the MTA is managed a hell of a lot better, and more transparently, than (for example) the state legislature. The state government, which doesn’t even use standard accounting techniques (!), should clean up its own act before attempting to fix others.

Older and Wiser August 31, 2010 - 12:26 pm

MTA agencies are audited to death already. One out of every 7 managers spends most of their time interfacing with the welter of auditors that come at them from every level of government, in addition to the outside firm. And those managers don’t do the actual documentation legwork, which falls to countless subordinates in every department. One out of every 5 administrative headcount could disappear overnight if the volume, frequency, and intensity of audits were scaled back to what suffices for comparably sized companies in the private sector.

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