DiNapoli searches for fraud in MTA overtime

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State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently audited the MTA and found what he said was “a culture of acceptance” of overtime pay.

Now his office will soon begin what is known as a forensic audit to determine whether fraud or any other illegality was involved in the hundreds of millions of dollars in overtime paid by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over the past few years.

“Legislation passed last year authorizes a forensic audit and we welcome it along with the comptroller’s assistance as we continue to fulfill our commitment to reduce overtime,” the MTA said in a statement.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder recently called the curbing of overtime abuse “my top priority” in a shake-up he ordered of the agency.

DiNapoli’s office said it had “expanded its oversight of the MTA to unprecedented levels, completing nearly two dozen audits and reports since 2007.”

The most recent previous audit found what DiNapoli said was overtime costs that increased by 26 percent to nearly $600 million between 2005 and 2009, setting in motion his decision to conduct the forensic audit, which will enable his time to investigate suspicious practices involving overtime.

Forensic audits focus on examples of fraud and wrongdoing that may be considered criminal offenses, which are then referred to law enforcement agencies.

“The auditors will look to make sure that the MTA is only paying overtime that is justified, authorized, earned, properly calculated and correctly applied for pension and benefit determinat­ions,” the comptroller’s office said.

The MTA has been the target of frequent criticism from elected officials and the public that its bookkeeping is sloppy.

“My problem with the MTA is they are consistently asking for more money, but constituent services stay the same and slide a little,” state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said after hearing that DiNapoli would conduct the audit.

“Something is wrong with a system that allows more than 140 people to double their salaries through overtime,” DiNapoli said. “It’s hard to justify repeated fare hikes, layoffs and service reductions when New Yorkers believe the MTA isn’t controlling spending and restraining costs.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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