Postal Service racks up big bill for unauthorized overtime

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A new audit report showing the U.S. Postal Service spent more than $717 million on unauthorized overtime pay in fiscal 2010 and 2011 comes as the Senate prepares to take up key postal reform legislation later this month.

The USPS inspector general’s audit found that field operations employees worked about 1.2 billion hours in fiscal 2010 and 1.1 billion hours in fiscal 2011. Many of those hours were unauthorized by managers and supervisors. In numerous cases, managers failed to check overtime reports.

Auditors said conditions “created opportunities for employees to receive overtime without prior approval, clock-in for work before their scheduled tour began, and clock-out after their tour ended.” Employees told auditors that they worked overtime without authorization, and their supervisors never mentioned it was needed.

“Postal Service policy states that supervisors are responsible for controlling employee access to timecards,” the report stated. “They are required to take all necessary action to restrict employees’ access to the timecards before their scheduled tour begins and make certain employees clock in and out according to their assigned schedules.”

The overtime cost USPS $294 million in fiscal 2010 and $423 million in fiscal 2011. The cash-strapped agency lost $5.1 billion in fiscal 2011. Both chambers of Congress are still working on overhauls of the Postal Service’s business model.

The main House bill, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates could save about $20 billion during the next decade, includes a provision that would replace USPS leadership with a control-board like agency if the Postal Service cannot resolve its financial crisis.

“This sort of mismanagement poses questions about whether the agency can reduce costs on its own,” Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Government Executive, in reference to the latest IG report.

The House has not scheduled debate on the bill, but the Senate could consider its reform measure later this month.

Emily Spain, a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., a co-author of the Senate’s 21st Century Postal Reform Bill, declined to comment Tuesday on whether the audit could affect negotiations on the bill.

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