It appears that not much has changed at the MTA in regard to overtime abuse and mismanagement, at least in the case of the Signal Construction Unit at the Metro North Hudson and Harlem line, according to a forensic audit conducted by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and released earlier this month.
The cost to taxpayers in 2010 for avoidable overtime and rest shift pay at the unit was $991,208 in overtime and $216,128 rest shifts, the audit revealed. This was the result of scheduling and shift manipulation. Not only is this type of activity an on-going cost to taxpayers for the original abuse, but padding employee pay also incurs future excessive payouts in the form of pension benefits. For six of the employees at this unit, the additional pay is projected to have increased future payouts by $5.5 million.
The results of this forensic audit only cover one unit of the MTA, so the extent of this costly manipulation could be exponentially higher. Indications are that the problem is widespread. A previous MTA audit completed in November 2010 highlighted excessive overtime under questionable policies and practices. It alluded to overtime padding during the last three years of employment to boost pension payouts.
It appears that the MTA is perpetually strapped for money, but the issue needs to be addressed through investigation, reorganization and streamlining of operations, not through continuing fare hikes for passengers.
Government audits must go beyond simply uncovering problems. They must ensure compliance with recommended solutions and severe consequences for fraud and abuse of taxpayer money.