A new audit found no further evidence of time and attendance fraud at the Environmental Protection Agency, following the case of the senior policy adviser who bilked the agency out of nearly $1 million by claiming his absences from work were due to assignments as a CIA spy.
In the latest investigation, the EPA inspector general did not uncover any additional fraud by employees who were paid during extended absences from their jobs. The IG looked into the issue because auditors determined that poor “controls over timekeeping” helped John C. Beale get away with his scheme.
Beale told his bosses he was away from his job in order to conduct “sensitive work for another agency,” and after 12 years racked up $880,000 in pay and bonuses he did not earn. He pleaded guilty to fraud in 2013 and was sentenced to 32 months in prison, as well as paying $1.3 million in restitution to the agency.
The case is among several high-profile instances of misconduct at the EPA, which also included a $120,000 a year, bonus-winning, employee who admitted to spending two to six hours a day visiting porn websites and downloading 7,000 pornographic files to an agency shared server.
The IG noted several steps EPA has taken to strengthen its timekeeping system, including forcing supervisors to approve each employee’s timesheet separately and giving extra scrutiny to reports that weren’t entered directly by the employee or checked by a direct manager.
Still, the watchdog noted that auditors checked only for fraud where employees had been paid while on long absences, and did not assess “the agency’s overall time and attendance system or payroll system and the related controls.”
The IG did outline several potential issues it uncovered in the course of checking for fraud that might warrant additional study. Auditors found several instances of time card errors that resulted in “an overstatement of the employees’ leave balances.” They also found instances where employees used personal computers to conduct official work, even when they were in the office, and they found “potentially unsafe conditions” in the homes of reasonable accommodation employees who were teleworking fulltime. These included cluttered and poorly lit workspaces.
In response to the report, EPA officials told the watchdog they were evaluating their telework policies to address concerns about use of personal computers and employee safety. The timecard errors with regard to leave balances have been corrected, and new procedures have been introduced in an attempt to prevent future mistakes.
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