Metro North Lax In Monitoring Overtime Paid For With Federal Stimulus Funds

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ALBANY, NY -- Separate audits of Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) found they failed to properly manage overtime paid by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), allowing abuses such as allowing some conductors to charge overtime for tasks such as washing up for work, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today.

“There’s significant room for improvement in how Metro-North and LIRR monitor the hours their employees work,” DiNapoli said. “Federal money came to New York state to help improve our transportation network and we must be good stewards of those funds. The MTA should take a harder look at wasteful spending and work to tighten up its operations.”

The Metro-North audit examined whether $72.3 million in ARRA funds were used efficiently and for authorized purposes at four locations from April 30, 2009 through June 30, 2012. Auditors examined whether employees were paid for only the time they worked, whether overtime was pre-approved and justified and whether the reasons for some of the overtime were sound.

DiNapoli’s auditors found that one of the timekeeping systems in place at Metro North, Crew Management System, did not have a requirement for conductors to sign out manually, so there was not an accurate record of when conductors actually left the facility. In a review of the 10 highest overtime earners who worked a total of 183 hours of overtime over 54 instances during the third quarter ended September 30, 2010, there were no overtime requests to support pre-approval and justification of 136 hours of overtime.

Auditors also questioned whether government funds were wasted by paying conductors 2 hours and 40 minutes of overtime every day for tasks such as changing clothes, traveling to and from project sites and washing up for work. In addition, an unannounced floor check at the Tarrytown Station found a conductor not at his station when a passenger train came through.

DiNapoli recommended that Metro-North:

· Require conductors to electronically sign in and out;
· Monitor time and attendance records;
· Establish agency-wide policies and procedures that govern the use, pre-approval and justification for overtime;
· Monitor conductors to make sure they are on site and working at their assigned posts; and
· Ensure that the most efficient practices are being followed.

The LIRR audit reviewed whether $102.8 million spent on two ARRA projects during the same time period as the Metro-North audit were properly monitored. Auditors found that the LIRR did not efficiently manage the funds and as a result, employees might have been paid for unnecessary overtime or time that wasn’t worked.

Auditors found no pre-approval was given for the 110 instances of overtime totaling 998 hours in September 2010. For certain employees, LIRR did not have a system in place to verify time or attendance.

A review of three sampled track workers also found excessive overtime. For example, on Sept. 12, 2010, a track foreman claimed 24 consecutive overtime hours, an assistant track supervisor claimed 20.5 consecutive overtime hours while another track foreman claimed 18.5 consecutive hours on the same day. This was repeated two weeks later with 22.5, 18 and 19.5 hours of overtime claimed by the same employees. LIRR officials noted the overtime was consistent with provisions of existing collective bargaining agreements.

DiNapoli recommended that LIRR:

· Establish a process for approving and justifying overtime for certain workers:
· Monitor employees to ensure they are being paid for hours worked;
· Monitor hours worked consecutively without an off-duty rest period to ensure efficient and safe work practices and customer safety; and
· Implement a time keeping system to accurately record attendance and improve communications between sectors to ensure that changes in assignments are noted properly.

Metro-North and LIRR’s responses to the audits are included in the final audit.

For a copy of the MTA report visit: http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093014/12s104.pdf

For a copy of the LIRR report visit: http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093014/10s2.pdf

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