Auditors: Baton Rouge needs to check OT more closely

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — East Baton Rouge Parish government needs to keep a closer eye on overtime, auditors say.

The auditing firm Postlethwaite and Netterville did not find any wrongdoing or improper overtime last year, when the city-parish paid 11% more in overtime than the year before, The Advocate reported.

But the firm did find cases in which overtime was taken without first getting a manager’s approval, according to a copy of the audit provided to the newspaper.

It also found some managers not using formal timesheets or incorrectly using a system that is supposed to flag unusual increases in overtime pay.

The city-parish is getting used to a new electronic payroll system, and some problems were due to employees working remotely because of the pandemic, officials said.

The audit also listed among its findings a few minor violations of federal grant terms.

“The most severe one, or one that we don’t like, is our overtime stuff,” city-parish Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel said.

Auditors said the city-parish has systems in place to prevent unearned overtime, but “certain features of these controls are not being employed to their fullest extent.”

Police officers sometimes worked extra hours without getting approval first, and some fire department employees logged extra time without formal timesheet approval, the report said.

Reports created each pay period to flag above-normal overtime didn’t always reach responsible manager, auditors said.

The city-parish said it would start providing overtime reports during each pay period in all departments and continue to monitor the budget.

“Part of the issue is the sign-off process has not been real tight,” Gissel said. “One of the things we’re working on doing is setting up so the department heads will have to sign off on the exception reports.”

In 2020, some police employees logged 1,500 to 1,900 overtime hours, some EMS employees reported 1,500 to 2,400 hours and some Environmental Services employees documented 1,500 to 1,700 overtime hours, according to the audit.

The city-parish paid about $20.5 million in overtime last year, up from about $18.5 million in the previous two years, according to an analysis by The Advocate.

In May, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said a pandemic-prompted hiring freeze, intense hurricane season and COVID-19 restrictions contributed to the uptick in overtime.

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