Sen. Kelly Ayotte calls for probe into alleged DHS overtime abuses

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) at a news conference July 25. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images) Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)  (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) called Friday for an investigation and hearing into overtime abuses by employees of the Department of Homeland Security which whistleblowers say have  cost the government more than $8.7 million a year.

A report issued Thursday by the federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) found that some DHS employees were using Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, known as AUO, to pad their paychecks. The overtime is intended to be for unanticipated, urgent work, like capturing criminals or fighting terrorism.

But one whistleblower, Jose Rafael Ducos Bello, estimated that 27 employees in the CBP’s Commissioner’s Situation Room improperly requested a total of $696,000 in overtime, and described the problem as “common and widespread, especially for employees with desk jobs who are not doing work on the border.”

“Whistleblower testimony indicates many employees even consider themselves to be entitled to such pay. This is unacceptable,” wrote Ayotte, who is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

She wrote her comments in her letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman.

“I am even more concerned by the reported endemic nature of the problem within DHS’ culture, particularly the apparent lack of oversight within the department to discourage, reprimand, and end such behavior,” she continued.

In her letter, Ayotte also expressed continued concern regarding DHS’ current lack of a permanent inspector general – an oversight position meant to end waste, mismanagement and inefficiency within the department.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents more than 17,000 employees, views AUO “as a vital tool to secure this nation’s borders.”

“We ask Congress to carefully examine the issue and not paint all recipients of AUO with the same broad brush,” Moran said in an interview. “Border Patrol agents earn AUO on a daily basis by honorably serving this country and placing their lives at risk.”

His union is working on reforms to the pay of Border Patrol agents so that border security “does not fall victim to the misdeeds of a few.”

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux is a National staff writer who covers veterans, veterans' affairs and the culture of government. She's an award-winning former foreign correspondent who covered Africa and India for nearly a decade. She also covered immigration, crime and education for the Metro staff.

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