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Report I2009-1 Summary - April 2009

Investigations of Improper Activities by State Employees:

July 2008 Through December 2008

HIGHLIGHTS

State employees and agencies engaged in improper activities, including the following:

  • Wasted $580,000 by leasing office space left vacant for more than four years.
  • Incurred $71,747 in improper commute, lodging, and meal expenses.
  • Failed to report 427 hours of missed work, for which the employee was paid $8,314.
  • Circumvented state civil service rules by arranging for the selection of a subordinate employee to a vacant position and paying the employee $6,444 for duties that she did not perform.
  • Paid at least $1,253 more than necessary on a $4,987 purchase without obtaining competitive price quotes.
  • Wasted $3,000 by paying for private consultant services that another state agency could have provided at no cost.
  • Paid an employee $1,145 for unearned compensation and travel expenses not incurred.
  • Sent inappropriate e-mail messages to other state employees. Management then failed to take corrective action despite noting similar behavior in the past.
  • Circumvented state law by protecting a vacant position and preventing it from being abolished.

In response to previously reported investigations, state departments and agencies have either acted or failed to act in the following ways:

  • The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Corrections) failed to collect $1.3 million for hours three employees spent working on union activities.
  • Corrections initiated recovery efforts for improper payments made to employees for inmate supervision when the employees did not fulfill requirements. However, its recovery efforts did not encompass some of the improper payments.
  • The California Environmental Protection Agency continued to take corrective action regarding an employee who failed to promptly submit time sheets that accurately accounted for her time.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The California Whistleblower Protection Act (Whistleblower Act) empowers the Bureau of State Audits (bureau) to investigate and report on improper governmental activities by agencies and employees of the State of California. Under the Whistleblower Act, an improper governmental activity is any action by a state agency or employee during the performance of official duties that violates any state or federal law or regulation; that is economically wasteful; or that involves gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency.

This report details the results of nine investigations completed by the bureau or undertaken jointly by the bureau and other state agencies between July 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008. This report also outlines the actions taken by state agencies in response to the investigations into improper governmental activities described here and in previous reports. The following paragraphs briefly summarize these investigations and the state agencies' actions, which the report's individual chapters discuss more fully. For more information about the bureau's investigations program, please refer to the Appendix.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION AND DEPARTMENT OF GENERAL SERVICES

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Corrections) and the Department of General Services (General Services) wasted a total of $580,000 in state funds by leasing office space that Corrections had left unoccupied for more than four years.

DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, OFFICE OF SPILL PREVENTION AND RESPONSE

A high-level official formerly with the Department of Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response, incurred $71,747 in improper travel expenses she was not entitled to receive. These included reimbursements for the cost of commuting between her Sacramento headquarters and her Southern California residence and for lodging and meal expenses incurred near her headquarters and residence.

STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND

An employee of the State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund) failed to report 427 hours of absences. As a result, State Fund did not charge the employee's leave balances, and she received $8,314 for hours that she did not work.

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

A high-ranking official with the Department of Social Services (Social Services) circumvented state civil service laws by arranging for the selection of a specific individual for a vacant position. Social Services also violated civil service laws by appointing the employee to an analyst position even though she performed the duties of a lower-level position. As a result, Social Services paid the employee $6,444 more than the amount permitted by the State for the lower-level duties.

DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION

A Department of Parks and Recreation supervisor did not solicit competitive price quotes for a purchase. Consequently, he failed to pay a fair and reasonable price—and he overpaid by at least $1,253—for goods costing $4,987.

DEPARTMENT OF GENERAL SERVICES

General Services wasted $3,000 by paying for consultant services from a private vendor even though another state agency could have provided comparable services at no cost.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

A Department of Justice employee failed to properly report her time worked and leave taken, and claimed reimbursement for travel expenses that she did not incur. Further, the employee's manager failed to ensure that her time-reporting and expense claims were accurate. As a result, the employee received $1,145 for unearned compensation and travel expenses not incurred.

EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT

An employee of the Employment Development Department (Employment Development) misused his state computer and his e-mail account to send personal messages. The misuse included sending inappropriate messages to other state employees. Further, even though management at Employment Development had noted similar conduct by this employee for several years, it failed to take appropriate action to correct the employee's behavior.

DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE

The Department of Finance circumvented state law when it protected a vacant position by preventing that position from being abolished.

UPDATE ON PREVIOUSLY REPORTED ISSUES

In September 2005 we reported that Corrections did not track the total number of hours available in a rank-and-file release time bank (time bank) composed of personal leave hours donated by members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (union) for union representatives to use when conducting union business. Our investigation identified 10,980 hours that three union representatives used but that Corrections failed to charge against the time bank from May 2003 through April 2005. Instead, evidence indicated the State paid for those hours through its regular payroll at a cost of $395,256. Moreover, Corrections has not attempted to obtain reimbursements for the hours the three union representatives spent conducting union activities from April 2005 through January 2006. This failure resulted in an additional cost to the State of $185,546. As a result, the State unnecessarily paid a total of $580,802 for union leave hours from May 2003 through January 2006.

Records from the State Controller's Office indicated that Corrections began to charge union leave for the hours the three union representatives spent working on union activities beginning in February 2006. However, union leave hours, unlike time-bank hours, must be reimbursed to the State and must include both salary and benefit costs. In January 2009 Corrections reported that it had submitted invoices to the union totaling $753,460 for the union representatives' work on union activities from February 2006 through December 2008; however, as of the end of December 2008, Corrections had not received payments on any of these invoices. Therefore, Corrections has either failed to account for or to recover any reimbursements for hours that the three representatives used to conduct union activities from May 2003 through December 2008. These unrecovered reimbursements cost the State a total of $1,334,262.

In October 2008 we reported that Corrections improperly granted nine office technicians increased pay to supervise inmates at its R. J. Donovan Correctional Facility. The office technicians were not entitled to receive the increase because they did not supervise the required number of inmates or because they did not supervise inmates who worked the minimum number of hours required for the employees to receive the increased pay. Consequently, Corrections paid these office technicians $16,530 more than they should have received. In March 2009 Corrections reported that it had set up accounts receivable to collect $11,400 from the employees. However, when it initiated efforts to recover the overpayments from the office technicians, Corrections used the incorrect period for overpayment recovery and thus failed to collect $3,230 to which the State was entitled.

We also reported in October 2008 that an employee at the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) failed to punctually submit time sheets that recorded her absences accurately. In addition, the officials responsible for managing her daily activities did not ensure that the employee reported her absences accurately and that staff properly charged the absences to the employee's leave balances. At the time of our report, Cal/EPA reported that it had recalculated, updated, and corrected the employee's leave balances to reflect her actual absences and overtime worked. In addition, it planned to establish an account receivable of $616 covering 24 hours of absences for which the employee's pay should have been docked. In March 2009 Cal/EPA informed us that in December 2008 it began deductions from the employee's pay and that it will continue the deductions until it collects the full amount owed to the State.

Table 1 displays the issues and the financial impact of the cases in this report, the months in which we initially reported on the cases, and the status of any corrective actions taken.

Table 1:
The Issues, Financial Impact, and Status of Corrective Action of Cases Described in This Report
ChapterAgencyDate of Our ReportIssueCost to the State as of December 31, 2008Status of Corrective Actions
New Cases
1 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Department of General Services April 2009 Waste of state funds. $580,000 Partial
2 Department of Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response April 2009 Improper travel expenses. 71,747 Pending
3 State Compensation Insurance Fund April 2009 Time and attendance abuse, lax supervision. 8,314 Pending
4 Department of Social Services April 2009 Improper hiring. 6,444 Pending
5 Department of Parks and Recreation April 2009 Failure to solicit competitive price quotes for its purchase of goods. 1,253 Pending
6 Department of General Services April 2009 Waste of state funds. 3,000 Complete
7 Department of Justice April 2009 Failure to accurately report time worked, absences, and travel expenses; management's failure to ensure proper time and travel expense reporting. 1,145 Pending
8 Employment Development Department April 2009 Misuse of state equipment and resources, incompatible activities, management's failure to take appropriate action. NA Complete
9 Department of Finance April 2009 Improper saving of a vacant position. NA Pending
Previously Reported Issues
10Department of Corrections and RehabilitationSeptember 2005Failure to account for employees' use of union leave.1,334,262Partial
10Multiple state departments*March 2006Inappropriate gifts of state resources and mismanagement.8,313,600Partial
10Department of Parks and RecreationMarch 2007Misuse of state resources and failure to perform duties adequately.NAPartial
10California State Polytechnic University, PomonaSeptember 2007Viewing of inappropriate Internet sites and misuse of state equipment.NAPartial
10 Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board October 2008 Misuse of state resources, dishonesty. 1,896 Partial
10 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation October 2008 Improper payments for inmate supervision. 16,530 Partial
10 California Environmental Protection Agency October 2008 Failure to accurately report absences and inadequate supervision. 23,320 Complete
10 California Prison Health Care Services January 2009 Improper contracting decisions and poor internal controls. 26,718,465† Partial

Source: Bureau of State Audits.

NA = Not applicable because the situation did not involve a dollar amount or because the findings did not allow us to quantify the financial impact.

* This case focused on the Department of Fish and Game but also involved the California Highway Patrol, the California Conservation Corps, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Developmental Services, the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Personnel Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

† California Prison Health Care Services spent $26,718,465 when it improperly acquired goods and services without competitive bidding. Lacking any documentation of any competition, we are unable to calculate the amount the State may have saved.















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