ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York's Senate Task Force on Government Efficiency is spotlighting a whistleblower who gave them a tip about some Department of Transportation motor vehicle inspectors.
The claim isn't that people lied and didn't do the work, but rather that no one stepped up to stop them from racking up so many hours.
The task force calls it a "dysfunctional use of overtime" that allowed 152 motor vehicle inspectors to earn more than a million dollars in overtime last year, not all of legit.
"If you want to know where government is wasting money, ask the people who work there, they can tell you," said Senator Diane Savino (D – Long Island).
Lawmakers got a tip on about employees who earned more than $40,000 in overtime, basically doubling their salaries. For example, one employee was clocking in at 4:15 in the morning, in some cases earning 12 hours of overtime a day.
"Constantly we're seeing this pattern of no one's watching the store," Senator Jeff Klein (D – Bronx/Westchester) argued. "There's still no mechanism in place which spots these spikes in overtime."
The DOT's Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee testified Wednesday that this is the first he's seen of the overtime allegations. He argued, in New York City, where there's the highest concentration of students, there aren't enough employees to inspect buses.
"We're chronically understaffed there and in order to accomplish that - all the buses inspected," Gee said. "If we don't inspect the buses, they can't operate."
Gee added that during a snow storm, a shift goes from 8 hours to 12 hours, and a DOT hiring freeze isn't helping matters; so existing employees are forced to work more.
As for employees clocking in during pre-dawn hours, Gee said, "We go to the locations, so he might be loading up his truck to go out there."
The Senate task force does not have the power to make recommendations or tell the DOT how to operate, but lawmakers do vote on how big a budget it gets, meaning they could lower the department's budget.
Last month, the task force released a report explaining that the DOT had made more than $200 million dollars in wasteful spending.
"Hard-working New Yorkers have sent their tax dollars to Albany only to have them used to fatten someone else's pocket through excessive overtime," Sen. Klein said. "We need to grab the reins on wasteful spending and get things moving in the right direction so that we can ensure that taxpayer dollars are being put to good use for years to come."
In addition to uncovering the wasteful spending, the task force came up with $60 million in cost saving measures.