The city’s public works employees received 17,747 hours of overtime without proper authorization, according to an audit report reviewed by the city council on Tuesday night. 80 employees of the Department of Public Works collected the overtime payments for which the city could not produce authorization forms.
Auditors reviewed 114 — out of 1,132 employees — who received 45,824 hours of overtime worth $1.64 million in fiscal year 2016, according to the audit report by Bayonne-based Donohue, Gironda, Doria, and Tomkins.
Review of just 10-percent of all employees earning overtime uncovered widespread irregularities. In some cases, there were no proof of prior authorization. In many cases, employees, division heads, and department heads did not sign authorization forms. There were no justification of overtime on the forms in some cases. There were also different authorization forms used for same date and time in some instances.
“Opportunity for fraud and abuse exists as it relates to the payment of overtime,” concluded the audit report. The auditors also noted two cases where supervisors approved their own overtime. Joseph Mania, who was indicted with mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, for alleged overtime fraud, signed off on his own overtime forms.
Internal controls for approval of overtime are not properly monitored or enforced, the auditors wrote. “The controls in place to identify improprieties in overtime approval process are not operating effectively. If such improprieties are identified, they are not properly communicated and therefore, there is no accountability to responsible officials,” wrote the auditors.
Auditors also noted 54-percent of overtime approvals were not retained as called for by state record retention requirements.
Auditors recommend the city develop a citywide formal filing system for overtime approval forms and designate an official to review the forms for compliance. The city’s corrective action plan to address the audit finding states a universal time tracking system was activated in early 2017.
“The system has built in internal controls that include a uniform overtime form created by the system, which is to be reviewed against daily time logs, per employee, and signed by the immediate supervisor and the department director,” reads the correction action plan. Copies are kept by the respective divisions and originals are sent to payroll for verification of authorization, says the action plan.
Council members briefly discussed the audit report on Tuesday night, but there was no discussion on the overtime finding.