The Washington Post

Overtime costs for the city’s public workers more than doubled from 2011 to 2017, an audit finds.

- BY PETER JAMISON peter.jamison@washpost.com

The District government’s spending on overtime for public employees more than doubled between 2011 and 2017, according to a new report from the Office of the D.C. Auditor.

Overtime spending increased from $40.5 million during fiscal 2011 to $108.2 million in fiscal 2017, auditors found. Much of that boost was concentrat­ed at public safety agencies, with just four — the police department, Fire and Emergency Medical Services, the Department of Correction­s and the Department of Youth Rehabilita­tion Services — accounting for nearly 70 percent of the increase.

Auditors recommende­d that District agencies hire more fulltime staff to avoid the need for overtime and more tightly monitor their payrolls.

“The use of employee overtime is a necessary tool for every government, and especially important for public safety agencies,” D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson said in a written statement. However, she said, stronger internal controls and adequate staffing “would help minimize the use of overtime and save District taxpayer dollars.”

In addition to the cost, the report states, too much overtime work can erode public employees’ ability to do their jobs well. “Excessive overtime means some District employees are working longer hours on less rest, creating a higher risk of inattentiv­eness that can lead to injury to themselves or others, and potentiall­y threaten to undermine an agency’s mission,” the report says.

Auditors’ calculatio­ns did not include at least $4.66 million the federal government reimbursed the police and fire department­s for overtime during the 2017 presidenti­al inaugurati­on and the Women’s March. The auditor’s office said in its report that it could not verify the specific reimbursem­ent amounts.

Hundreds of government workers are making much of their money through overtime, the report states, including 41 who received more than half their overall pay through overtime in fiscal 2017 and an additional 380 who received at least a third of their pay through overtime.

Among the causes of overtime spending have been regular raises for government workers — which increase the calculatio­n of overtime rates. Another likely factor cited by the report was the District’s rollout of an expansive program of paid family and medical leave for public employees. To cover for workers using their leave, public-safety agencies may have assigned other employees to work overtime, the report states.

The audit also found chronic and unexplaine­d employee absences at the Department of Youth Rehabilita­tion Services, with more than 9,200 hours of such absences in fiscal 2017.

The public safety agencies that were the focus of the audit largely agreed with the recommenda­tions for tighter controls, the report states.

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