Department of Homeland Security:
Continued Action Needed to Strengthen Management of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime
GAO-15-95: Published: Dec 17, 2014. Publicly Released: Dec 17, 2014.
What GAO Found
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) components spent $512 million on administratively uncontrollable overtime (AUO) payments in fiscal year 2013 and $255 million through March 2014, mostly on Border Patrol agents. DHS's AUO expenditures increased from fiscal years 2008 through 2013, in part because of higher payments per earner. The average annual AUO payment per employee increased by about 31 percent, or from about $13,000 to about $17,000 from fiscal years 2008 through 2013, as shown in the figure below.
Figure: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO) Total Earners and Average Amount Spent per Earner Fiscal Years 2008 through 2013
Some DHS component policies are not consistent with certain provisions of federal regulations or guidance, and components have not regularly followed their respective AUO policies and procedures, contributing to widespread AUO administration and oversight deficiencies. For example, components have not consistently reviewed hours claimed and employee eligibility for AUO. In response, in 2014, DHS issued two memorandums. One required the suspension of AUO for certain employees. The other required components to submit plans to address deficiencies, which most DHS components have done. DHS also plans to issue a department-wide AUO directive and to monitor component implementation of corrective actions through its ongoing human resource office assessments every 3 to 4 years, among other things. However, this monitoring is too general and infrequent to effectively monitor or evaluate DHS components' progress. Given the department's long-standing and widespread AUO administration and oversight deficiencies, developing and executing a department-wide oversight mechanism to ensure components implement AUO appropriately on a sustained basis, and in accordance with law and regulation, could better position DHS to monitor components' progress remediating AUO deficiencies. Further, DHS's reporting annually to Congress on the extent to which DHS components have made progress in remediating AUO implementation deficiencies could provide Congress with reasonable assurance that DHS components have sustained effective and appropriate use of AUO in accordance with law and regulation.
Why GAO Did This Study
DHS had approximately 29,000 employees earning AUO, a type of premium pay intended to compensate eligible employees for substantial amounts of irregular, unscheduled overtime. DHS components' use of AUO has been a long-standing issue since at least 2007, when reviews identified the inappropriate use of AUO in DHS. GAO was asked to review DHS components' use and implementation of AUO.
This report addresses, among other things, how much DHS spent on AUO from fiscal year 2008 through March 2014 (the most current data available) and the extent to which DHS components implemented AUO appropriately. GAO analyzed AUO payments data from components that have regularly used AUO, which included U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Office of the Chief Security Officer. When calculating annual averages, GAO used the last full fiscal year of available data (2013). GAO also analyzed component AUO policies and procedures to assess compliance with federal regulations and guidance.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that DHS develop and execute a department-wide mechanism to ensure components implement AUO appropriately. Congress should consider requiring DHS to report annually on components' progress remediating AUO implementation deficiencies. DHS concurred with the recommendation.
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Matter for Congressional Consideration
Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.
Matter: To ensure that DHS components have sustained effective and appropriate use of AUO in accordance with law and regulation, Congress should consider requiring DHS to report annually to Congress on the use of AUO within the department, including the extent to which DHS components have made progress remediating AUO implementation deficiencies and information from annual third-party AUO audits or other department AUO oversight efforts.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Comments: In June 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took actions toward addressing our recommendation by developing a department-wide oversight mechanism described in a directive and instruction on administratively uncontrollable overtime (AUO). DHS's AUO Directive defines responsibility for Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO) that includes establishing AUO policy and guidance, providing program oversight and evaluating component AUO compliance, and administering an AUO training program, among other things. The directive also requires component heads to develop component-specific AUO policies that must be reviewed by DHS OCHCO for concurrence and also submit to OCHCO the results of an independent, third-party audit of compliance with applicable AUO law and policy no later than 18 months after the date of the directive (i.e., by December 2016) and annually thereafter. The development of the directive represents an important step towards improving oversight of AUO and remediating AUO deficiencies. To ensure that the AUO Directive has been fully and appropriately executed across the department, the recommendation will remain open until the DHS components that continue to use AUO have developed and submitted to OCHCO updated AUO policies as well as submitted their first independent, third-party audit. At that point, we will we review the policies and the audits to determine if the recommendation has been addressed, and can therefore be closed.
Recommendation: To better position DHS to monitor components' progress remediating AUO deficiencies, the Secretary of DHS should develop and execute a department-wide oversight mechanism to ensure components implement AUO appropriately on a sustained basis, and in accordance with law and regulation.
Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security