Looking for waste, fraud or abuse in state government? Start at MNDOT

Individual incomes in Minnesota varies widely from county to county but the median family income is approximately $53,657.  This number has stagnated in the past decade which is why so many middle-class families have felt that they are treading water economically. 

The instinct of those families is correct:  if adjusted for inflation, the median income decreases in size by nearly $10,000.  Many full-time workers all across the state haven’t been making economic progress these past few years.

But that’s not true for some state government workers.

Minnesota’s enormous government workforce (approximately 55,000 workers) makes it one of the largest employers in the state.  That workforce is diverse in its occupations and covers workers in all 87 counties.  Last Friday, the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released a shocking report that examines the “internal controls and compliance audit” of state agencies as it pertains to paying employee overtime and expense reports.  The shocking news?  Nearly $270 million dollars has been paid to some state employees in overtime and expenses with the highest paid employee receiving $117,791 in overtime pay last year.

That overtime pay is on top of their salary and benefits and that’s not all:  that same employee of the MN Department of Human Services also received $75,518 in overtime pay in 2014 and an additional $101,184 in overtime wages during 2015. That’s a grand total of $294,493 in overtime paid to one employee.

What’s more? According to the OLA report, some state agencies don’t adequately keep track of employee time reporting “by not reviewing, monitoring, and following-up on some instances when supervisors without direct knowledge of the employees’ work approved employees’ timesheets and when supervisors modified employee timesheets without the employees’ review.”  That’s bureaucratese for “we’re not always sure the time sheets submitted and paid are accurate.”  And taxpayers are footing the bill – all $270 million dollars.

One of the worst state agencies mentioned in the report was the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).  MnDOT leaders responded to this admonition by the legislative auditor by saying that they will correct their “internal control weaknesses over…payroll transactions, including overtime” by developing corrective action that will be implemented…wait for it…by April 1, 2017.  Yep, it will take MnDOT SEVEN months to make sure that they’re not wasting tax dollars by paying overtime that may or may not be warranted.

During nearly every legislative session for the past decade, state bureaucrats appear before legislative committees and submit their requests for additional tax dollars.  No state agency has been as aggressive as MnDOT in the pursuit of raising taxes to increase their budget.  Often the legislature has granted an increase in taxes (2008 gas tax increased by 8.5 cents per gallon; 2013 county-assessed wheelage tax, to name just a few) with the promise that MnDOT will seek to eliminate waste and fraud and reform this state agency.

This report shows $270 million reasons to reform state government spending and oversight now.  You can read it yourself HERE.

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