Zurik: IG finds S&WB illegally spent $4.5M on overtime

Zurik: IG finds S&WB illegally spent $4.5M on overtime

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A new audit by New Orleans' inspector general finds the Sewerage & Water Board spent $4.5 million more than it should have in 2013 in overtime pay for its workers.

Ed Quatrevaux's report found that basically there are no practical controls over overtime at the S&WB.

"There's some policies, but the policies are not being followed," Quatrevaux tells us.

The audit finds that, in 2013, the S&WB failed to follow its own budget.  That year, they budgeted $4.6 million in overtime expenses - but actually spent $9.4 million.

"That's a huge expense." Quatrevaux says.

Our investigations over the past five years have shown S&WB overtime has gone up each year.  Last year, 46 employees made more in extra pay than their base salary, including a water purification operator, who added about $100,000 in extra pay to his base salary of $65,000

We found the S&WB has been spending more on overtime than the New Orleans Police Department.

"Your workforce should be sized so that overtime is a small increment," Quatrevaux says.  "It should not be an ordinary thing. It should not be something that a person does year after year after year. It's supposed to be an exceptional situation. Here, it's built into the payroll."

The audit finds the Sewerage and Water Board failed to follow its own policies and civil service rules.

The audit also looked at standby pay - it's given to employees who may or may not have to report to work.  In 2013, the audit found $1.5 million paid in standby time to employees.

Quatrevaux says, according to state law, this standby pay is illegal.  He calls it a donation, since employees are not restricted from personal activities - they can go to dinner with family and friends, for instance, or go shopping, and still get paid.

All totaled, the numbers sometimes don't add up.

When the IG's auditors looked at regular, overtime and standby pay together, they found one employee who averaged 26.5 hours on the job, every day. Another worker earned 6,504 hours of standby pay, but was never called into work once.

"The Sewerage & Water Board, the new management, acknowledged these problems," Quatrevaux says.

They called his office for help to finally fix a problem we've been pointing out for five years - of millions of dollars of questionable overtime, public money, being paid out every year.


Two graphics in this report come from the IG's audit, and both link to the full report; mobile users can view the report here.

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