Staff paid for work not done

 

OVERTIME paid to Department of Agriculture and Food staff for work which had not been done was "unacceptable and against all public financial procedures", the Dail Public Accounts Committee said yesterday.

Any such arrangements should be avoided in the future, said the committee's chairman, Mr Denis Foley.

Department officials said they were now satisfied the overtime claimed was worked in all cases except 80, and that £13,000 had been deducted from 78 employees. Alternative arrangements were being made in the remaining two cases.

Mr Foley told the officials: "The committee finds it difficult to understand the lack of control exercised by the Department in an arrangement which in itself was unacceptable and against all public financial procedures."

Staff act the Department were paid £825,868 in overtime at the end of 1995 following the resolution of a dispute which involved industrial action by clerical staff and a ban on overtime in all offices.

Of the total paid out, £778,029 had been paid for the week ending December 21st, 1995.

However, the majority of the overtime had not been worked before the year end and in April, 1996, Departmental records indicated that 208 staff had still not completed their overtime allocation. A further 78 had not submitted any overtime claim by that date, according to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Cases arose where overtime was claimed for days where the staff member did not undertake normal hours of duty, including two cases where staff were recorded as being on sick leave.

All section heads had been asked to submit details of staff wishing to take up the offer and to specify work to be undertaken during overtime. The overtime was to be undertaken in all sections of the Department during a two week period starting in December.

However, during the checking of forms it became clear that some confusion had arisen as to how the overtime forms should be filled out. This had resulted in forms being submitted based on "notional working hours".

Mr Michael Dowling, Secretary to the Department, told the committee that this misinterpretation had since been corrected and that claim forms had now been submitted based on factual working in all cases.