On Monday New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that two separate audits of Metro-North and the LIRR found the railroad systems have mismanaged overtime funds paid for by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In several instances overtime was given to conductors for such menial tasks as washing up for work.
“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.”
Auditors are reviewing the LIRR for 102.8 million spent on two ARRA projects. They found 110 unapproved instances of overtime totaling out to 998 hours in September 2010 alone. DiNapoli believes they were able to get away with this due to the LIRR not having a system in place for verifying time and attendance.
Three separate track managers were cited in the audit and found with excessive overtime. On September 12, 2010, a track foreman claimed 24 consecutive overtime hours, an assistant track supervisor claimed 20.5 hours, and another claimed 18.5 consecutive hours. They claimed overtime again two weeks later with 22.5 hours, 18 hours, and 19.5 hours.
LIRR officials say the overtime was consistent with provisions of the collective bargaining agreements.
DiNapoli recommends several ways to improve the overtime system. One way is for the MTA to establish a process for approving and justifying overtime. Another way is to have workers monitored during work hours and the hours they worked consecutively without an off-duty rest period.
He is also pushing for them to update their time keeping system. One way the MTA is doing this is by installing a biometric time clock system to scan LIRR workers’ fingerprints electronically at the beginning and end of their shifts. The project costs $924,000 and more than 1,700 employees will use it to clock in and out of the LIRR’s 80 facilities.
The LIRR’s maintenance department has used a similar system since 2001. That department has 2,000 workers involved with repair and maintenance of trains.
In the Metro-North audit, more than 72.3 million in ARRA funds are being examined for the same faults as the LIRR. DiNapoli’s auditors found that one timekeeping system at Metro-North did not require conductors to sign in and out manually.
During September 2010, ten of the highest overtime earners worked a total of 183 unapproved hours in more than 54 instances.