State comptroller's audit finds double dipping at state agencies

Dec 20, 2013

A new audit by the state comptroller finds that out of a sample of state workers at New York agencies and authorities, more than one fifth were double dipping, being paid for two jobs while only doing one.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli audited six state agencies and authorities, including the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the departments of prisons and mental health, as well as the state’s unified court system. His office randomly sampled the work records of 345 employees, finding that 75 regularly violated time and attendance policies and were paid for a total of  $413,277 in hours that they did not actually work.

“As we find too often in our audits, the proper controls have not been in place,” DiNapoli said. “The agencies need to do a better job.”

N.Y. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO News file photo

Other workers were found to have falsified their time sheets, abused sick leave and exaggerated the amount of time it took to travel form one job to another.

The audit cites several examples, without naming names. One is of an MTA track equipment manager who also worked for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The employee worked four overlapping hours each week, for a total of over $8,000 during the course of a year.

A court employee who also worked for the City University of New York was scheduled to teach classes during the same time he was supposed to be at his courtroom job.

A psychiatric nurse who worked for the state Office of Mental Health was simultaneously being paid as a nurse at a nearby school.

And an Office of Developmental Disabilities employee said he was sick for a total of eight days, and got paid sick leave, while he was actually traveling to out of state basketball games as part of his other job at the State University of New York.   

Comptroller DiNapoli says it’s particularly egregious in an era where we’re all very concerned about not wasting resources and protecting taxpayer dollars.

Though a number of the violations found are technically illegal, the comptroller is not recommending that any charges be pressed. He says it’s up to the Cuomo administration’s individual agencies and authorities to decide whether to get the money back from the workers. But he says his office will be recalculating how much of their pay is accrued to the state pensions that they are scheduled to eventually collect, and will be downsized to reflect the hours that they double dipped.

DiNapoli says the agencies involved did not react defensively, instead they agreed that they need to tighten up their policies for employees holding more than one job title to prevent double timing in the future.

The Comptroller says he plans more audits of state agencies specifically looking for more instances of employee abuses, though at this point he would not characterize the problem as systematic or rampant.  

The Comptroller overall was not highly critical of Gov. Andrew Cuomo or any of the governor’s appointed commissioners of any of the agencies or authorities cited in the audits. The report comes on a day that Cuomo signed a bill requested by DiNapoli into law. It will give the comptroller new powers to audit providers of pre-kindergarten for special needs children, an industry that has seen its share of scandal.

“We don’t want to see these providers enrich themselves at the expense of the kids,” DiNapoli said.

The comptroller will now be auditing all of the more than 300 providers who are paid $1.4 billion on a regular basis.