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Federal Employees News Digest : Nov 11, 2013
the Department of Homeland Security improperly claim administratively uncon- trollable overtime (AUO) on a regular basis. OSC assembled details of the AUO abuse in the course of investigating six whistle- blower cases. While OSC said the total cost of the abuse throughout the department is unknown, it found improper AUO claims of $8.7 million a year at just the six DHS offices identified by whistleblowers. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner called for the administration to address the prob- lem in an Oct. 31 letter to President Obama. "Such abuse of overtime pay is a viola- tion of public trust and a gross waste of scarce government funds," Lerner wrote. "It is incumbent upon DHS to take effec- tive steps to curb the abuse. It is up to the administration and Congress to develop a revised pay system, if warranted, that ensures fair compensation for employees who are legitimately working overtime." AUO can be claimed under certain situ- ations in which employees---such as border patrol agents---must continue stay on duty even when it entails working beyond nor- mal hours. Under the rules, AUO is meant to be limited to "irregular" or "occasional" circumstances when failure to stay on duty would be considered negligent, as when a border patrol agent is in the middle of responding to criminal activity. To head off abuse of the overtime, the head of one DHS component, Customs and Border Protection, issued a memo in 2012 to emphasize the "occasional" nature of this kind of overtime. But OSC said thousands of DHS employ- ees file for AUO on a regular basis. Some employees claim up to two hours a day--- even in headquarters and training assign- ments where no qualifying circumstances are likely to exist. ‘Ongoing and pervasive’ "A whistleblower at the CBP Office of Training and Development in Glynco, GA, alleged that agents routinely abuse AUO by claiming two hours of AUO daily while fail- ing to perform any qualifying duties," Lerner's letter stated. "The fact that AUO is claimed at a training facility --- where compelling law enforcement reasons for staying on duty are unlikely to arise --- raises concerns about the propriety of its use by these employees." Lerner said OSC has closed one whistle- blower case, and the other five are ongoing. The now-closed case involved employees in the commissioner's situation room at CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C., where employees doing mostly administrative work claimed two hours of AUO following their assigned shift 89 percent of the time. In addition to the case at Glynco, other active whistleblower cases involve CBP offices in Texas and California; an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Texas; and an office at Citizenship and Immigration Services headquarters in Washington, D.C. "These additional cases indicate that AUO problems are ongoing and pervasive throughout DHS," Lerner wrote. See the letter at: www.osc.gov/ FY2014/14-1%20DI-13-0002/14-1%20 DI-13-0002%20-%20Letter%20to%20 the%20President.pdf. Bill would increase review of security clearances Four senators proposed legislation that would require periodic automated review of public records and databases to search for information that might affect current security clearances. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), comes after securi- ty background checks failed to prevent information leaks by contractor Edward Snowden or avert the recent shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. "There are systemic failures in the cur- rent process that are jeopardizing our abil- ity to protect our nation's secrets and our secure facilities," said McCaskill, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Collins, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former chair- man and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that while there have been "significant advances" in processing clearances more expeditiously, "there is still a gaping hole in the current security clearance process that has enabled people who exhibit obvious signs of high-risk behavior to remain undetected." "There needs to be a balance between the processing of clearances quickly enough to allow individuals to do their jobs, but also thoroughly enough to flag potential prob- lems," Collins said. The legislation would require the Office of Personnel Management to search public records and databases for information on every individual with a security clearance at least twice every five years, at random times. The audits would look for information that clearance-holders already are legally obligated to disclose, including informa- tion about criminal or civil proceedings, financial information, data from terrorist or criminal watch lists, and "any publicly avail- able information that suggests ill intent, vulnerability to blackmail, compulsive behavior, allegiance to another country, or change in ideology of the covered indi- vidual," according to the sponsors. OPM then would notify agencies of any such information. Studies have revealed that the background investigation process used for Snowden and the Navy Yard shooter contained significant gaps---including the exclusion of arrest records. See the bill at: www.mccaskill.senate.gov/ EnhancedSecurityClearanceActof2013bill.pdf. DOJ intervenes in background check lawsuit The Justice Department announced Oct. 30 that it will intervene in a whistle- blower lawsuit which alleges that a con- November 11, 2013 Vol. 63, No. 17 4 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com continued from page 3 continued on page 5
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