“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, according to these accounts.
In a report submitted to the White House and Congress on Thursday, the federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) details what it calls a “profound and entrenched problem” at DHS and a “gross waste of government funds.” Based on the testimony of seven whistleblowers, the OSC concludes that the pervasive misuse of overtime pay in six DHS offices, including four within Customs and Border Protection (CBP), comes to $8.7 million a year.”
What does this tell us? Well, to most people in the private sector who are held accountable for unnecessary overtime, it would be in our best interests to show this expense could be manageable. I budgeted sufficient overtime and part-time hours to be used when necessary, and allowed unused hours to be carried over to the next quarter. Managers’ bonuses were based on how well they could save those hours over a semi-annual period, without impacting customer service, so that when a real need arose, the hours were banked for a legitimate use.
I am sure I was not the only private industry executive who had a similar plan in place to control unnecessary personnel costs. In private industry, at least in banking in the 80s and 90s, interest expense was an important piece to drive our business. This was a true “uncontrollable” expense, so it was important to save monies in the “controllable” areas.
The American public views DHS as a division of government set up to secure us from future terrorist attacks, but the reality has shown us over the last 10 plus years, is that by setting up a new department and then combining existing bureaus and sub-departments under this umbrella, nothing was done to secure us any better and instead, bloated the government to such a degree that since 2003, the first full year of the Department, government spending has exploded. And using the USPS as the business model probably was a huge mistake.
This issue with DHS management by not controlling overtime expense proves that the country has a spending problem. If DHS were a private entity, it would be out of business already. Managers’ cushy jobs would certainly be in jeopardy and Senior people would be under intense scrutiny by both internal and external auditors to justify such alleged abuse.
And, obviously, the three Secretaries who have served to two Presidents, would have been fired and disgraced to not be able to claim success in position. They would not be able to move on to better paying jobs and more responsibility to mess up another major corporation. But, oh yeah, this is a government job, so it’s ok.
It is time to dismantle this inefficient, bloated, mismanaged, expensive, and generally unnecessary blight on our government. It was a good idea at the time, but it has proven to outlive its usefulness.
Let us put it out of OUR misery, the sooner the better.