Posts Tagged ‘abuse’

Audit Of Nevada Agency Use Of State Workers As Contractors Finds Abuse, Potential Criminal Activity

By Sean Whaley | 12:00 pm December 8th, 2010

CARSON CITY – An audit of Nevada state agencies using current and former employees as contractors has identified numerous potential concerns, including a case of one worker seeking payment for 25 hours of work in one 24-hour day and another where a former state worker is now earning $350 an hour as a contractor versus $65 an hour in his state job.

The audit also found an example of a current state employee earning $62,590 as a contractor in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 while earning a state salary as well.

At least eight examples were identified where state employees working as contractors either did the contract work during regular state work hours or could not provide documentation to show they did the work on their own time.

The audit also shows that the Legislature was kept in the dark about much of the contract work by state employees because the Department of Administration used a narrow definition of the term “consultant.”

State Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, the chairwoman of the Legislative Commission’s Audit Subcommittee, said the audit suggests the potential of criminal actions in some cases. The panel voted to turn the audit over to Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto for review and possible action.

Even if there is no criminal activity, the audit shows abuses of the contracting process, Leslie said.

Andrew Clinger, director of the state Department of Administration, agreed the use of current and former state employees as contractors “is out of hand.” The agency accepted all seven recommendations made in the audit.

The Legislature is expected to further address the issue in the upcoming 2011 session.

The use of current and former state employees as contractors was a major issue in the 2009 legislative session. The Legislature passed Assembly Bill 463 to tighten up the use of consultant contracts for current and former state employees.

But because of the narrow definition of consultant used by the state, AB463 has not resulted in information about such contracts entered into by the state being provided the lawmakers, the audit found. The Department of Administration did not provide any consultant contracts to the IFC for review and approval from July 2009 through July 2010, a period of more than one year, the audit found.

“Therefore, only under rare circumstances would a contractor be deemed a consultant and reported to the (Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee),” the audit found. “In contrast, boards, school districts and the Nevada System of Higher Education (NHSE) used a broad definition of consultant and reported many contracts to the IFC.”

The audit identified 250 current and former employees providing services to the state. These employees were paid a total of $11.6 million during fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the years covered by the review.

The state employee who put in for 25 hours of pay in a single day was paid for 10 hours of contract services, a regular 10-hour shift on his timesheet, plus an additional five hours of overtime.

The former employee being paid $350 an hour as a contractor compared to $65 an hour while a state employee is identified as a person with “an extensive background in complex water and natural resource issues.” The individual started work as a contractor at the higher rate of pay immediately after leaving state employment. The contract is still in effect and has been extended through June 30, 2011. As of September this year, the contractor has earned $472,493 from the state.

Among the other audit highlights:

A former state employee had a contract rate of $150 an hour versus $71 an hour as a state employee. The individual retired and came back to the same agency as a consultant regarding water and natural resource issues. The contract started in December 2007 and has been extended through February 2013. As of September 2010, the former employee has been paid $55,125.

A significant number of the current and former state employees doing independent contractor services are doing work similar to their state jobs. A total of 51 of 111 contracts reviewed show pay for similar work, including 18 current and 33 former employees. Many returned to the same agencies where they had worked.

The audit did find appropriate situations for employing a former employee as a consultant.

“Former employees provide a valuable resource to the state because of their knowledge and skills gained through years of state service,” the audit said.

In one example, a firefighter provided training for the Department of Public Safety at a rate of $26 an hour. Total payments were $1,400 over a two-year period.

New ‘Piglet Book’ Cites Wasteful Spending By Nevada State And Local Government Agencies

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:27 pm September 30th, 2010

Nevada’s state and local governments have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars over the past two years through lavish and wasteful spending – in some cases by outright theft – according to a new study from the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

The report, titled “The Nevada Piglet Book 2010” and authored by NPRI fiscal policy analyst Geoffrey Lawrence, details what he calls numerous examples of government waste over the past two years, including credit-card abuse, a sweetheart land deal for a former Las Vegas city councilman and local governments spending millions of dollars to lobby the state legislature.

“Contrary to the cries over the past two years that all levels of Nevada government have been ‘cut to the bone,’ this report reveals that government waste and inefficiencies are widespread,” Lawrence said. “What’s worse is that the millions of dollars in waste revealed in this report are likely just the tip of the iceberg.”

The study’s findings resulted from hundreds of public records requests to state and local governments and a review of dozens of city, county and state audits. The study reveals that many wasteful practices that NPRI documented previously in “The Nevada Piglet Book 2008” continue even today – despite politicians’ pledges to be more responsible with public money.

Among the questionable spending identified in the report are high public employee salaries and benefits, particularly for many firefighters who work in Southern Nevada, the failure of several agencies to perform their assigned tasks and inappropriate purchases by individual public employees.

The report also highlights the costs incurred by local governments to lobby the Legislature. During the 2009 session, Nevada local governments spent $3.2 million to lobby lawmakers in Carson City over a four-month period, including $951,324 spent by county governments, $1,061,473 spent by cities, and $509,337 spent by school districts. Special districts, such as the Southern Nevada Water Authority, also spent $618,191 on lobbying.

Erik Pappa, director of public communications for Clark County, said in response that county has changed its practices regarding lobbying the Legislature.

“We are no longer using paid lobbyists,” he said. “We rely upon county staff to provide information to state legislators.”

Lawrence said government agencies need to be more transparent.

“Until all levels of government become more transparent and put their spending checkbooks online for citizens to examine, as other states already have done, this type of waste will continue,” he said.

Lawrence noted that since the Texas Comptroller’s Office began putting itemized expenditure data online in 2007, Texas taxpayers have realized $51 million in cost savings simply by identifying areas of wasteful or inefficient spending.

The state of Nevada has posted much of its spending information for public review.

“The Nevada Piglet Book 2010 barely scratches the surface of the mountain of taxpayer dollars wasted by Nevada’s state and local government bureaucracies,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “Nevadans deserve a more fiscally responsible and transparent state government. From sweetheart deals for local politicians to exorbitant salaries for government employees, there is plenty of fat that can be trimmed.”

The Nevada Policy Research Institute is a free-market think tank that seeks private solutions to public challenges facing Nevada, the West and the nation. Citizens Against Government Waste is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, mismanagement and inefficiency in government.