Our investigation at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and California Correctional Health Care Services (Correctional Agencies) substantiated the following:
The California Whistleblower Protection Act empowers the California State Auditor (state auditor) to investigate and report on improper governmental activities by state agencies and employees.1 The state auditor initiated this investigation of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and California Correctional Health Care Services (Correctional Agencies) in response to allegations that they improperly undercharged the leave balances of certain employees for workdays they had missed.
Our investigation revealed that the Correctional Agencies wasted state resources by improperly accounting for time off taken by nonmanagerial employees from October 2010 through September 2011. Of the 170 employees whose time sheets and leave records we reviewed during this investigation, we found that the Correctional Agencies failed to charge leave accurately for 128 of the employees, mischarging them by 3,685 hours and costing the State $169,541. The majority of these mischarged hours resulted from the Correctional Agencies charging employees’ leave balances only eight hours for each workday missed. Because the employees were scheduled to work nine- or 10-hour workdays, they should have been charged nine or 10 hours of leave for each workday that they missed, in accordance with the policies of the California Department of Personnel Administration (Personnel Administration)2. This type of undercharging leave occurred for 110 of the 170 employees whose time sheets and leave balances we examined and cost the State $146,527.
The undercharging of leave for employees working a scheduled nine- or 10-hour workday was caused by the Correctional Agencies’ poor oversight of the manner in which personnel staff performed leave accounting at California’s adult correctional facilities. Many of the supervising personnel officers at the adult correctional facilities we visited during this investigation did not have an accurate understanding of how to charge leave balances for certain employees. As a result, the personnel specialists that they supervised did not charge employee leave balances correctly. However, even at facilities where the supervising personnel officers had an accurate understanding of how to charge leave properly, we still found the personnel specialists charging leave balances incorrectly, as this understanding was not shared with or implemented by all subordinate personnel specialists.
The remaining undercharged leave occurred because the Correctional Agencies’ personnel specialists made numerous clerical errors when entering information into the leave accounting system used by these agencies. Although some of the errors made by personnel specialists disadvantaged the Correctional Agencies’ employees by charging their leave balances for time they were not absent from work, the majority of the clerical errors disadvantaged the State by undercharging the employees’ leave balances for time they were absent from work. For the 170 employees whose time sheets and leave records we examined, the net cost of clerical errors to the State was $23,014. The Correctional Agencies’ poor oversight over personnel specialists also facilitated this problem.
Having identified substantial undercharging of the leave balances of certain employees working at the six adult correctional facilities we visited for this investigation, we performed a further analysis of the information we gathered at those facilities to identify factors associated with the undercharging of leave that might indicate the extent to which the undercharging of leave may be a systemic problem occurring at other adult correctional facilities throughout the State. In examining the information, we identified two factors strongly associated with the employees being undercharged leave for any workday missed. After identifying these factors, we conducted research regarding the remaining 27 adult correctional facilities to obtain a broad understanding of the extent to which those same factors were present at the remaining facilities. As part of that research, we surveyed supervising personnel officers at the 27 remaining facilities regarding their understanding of how to charge leave. Through our research, we found that at least one of the two factors associated with the undercharging of leave was present at all 27 facilities, and that supervising personnel officers at seven of these facilities had an incorrect understanding of how to charge leave properly. We thus concluded that in addition to wasting $169,541 in state resources during a 12-month period at the six facilities we visited, the Correctional Agencies likely also wasted a substantial amount of state resources at the remaining adult correctional facilities through the undercharging of leave. We estimated that the amount of the waste could have been more than $400,000 from October 2010 through September 2011, although this is just an estimate, and the actual amount of waste could be significantly higher or lower.
After completing our analysis of 2010 and 2011 data, we obtained 2012 time sheets and leave records for the eight employees at California Correctional Institution (CCI) and the eight employees at California State Prison, San Quentin (San Quentin) who were undercharged the largest number of leave hours during our previous review period to assess whether the undercharging of leave persisted. We found that the Correctional Agencies continued to undercharge leave for these employees, with the eight employees at CCI being undercharged 200 hours of leave at a cost to the State of $9,707 and the eight employees at San Quentin being undercharged 124 hours of leave at a cost of $4,505. Our review of the 2012 information suggests that the substantial undercharging of leave continued at the State’s adult correctional facilities in an amount similar to what we found in 2010 and 2011.
1 For the definition of an “improper governmental activity” and more information about the state auditor’s investigative authority, please refer to the Appendix.
2 Effective July 1, 2012, Personnel Administration was incorporated into a new state department called the California Department of Human Resources.