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California: Audit Finds CDCR Overpaid Employees Who Supervise Prisoner-Workers

A follow-up investigation by the California State Auditor has found that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) overpaid certain employees who supervise prisoner-workers.

In California, non-custodial staff who supervise prisoner-workers qualify for a monthly pay differential which ranges from $190 (for an office technician or a cook specialist I) to $325 (for a chaplain) and $400 (for a supervising registered nurse), but only if the employee meets specific requirements set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the state and the employee’s bargaining unit.

The requirements applicable to all bargaining units are that the employee have regular, direct responsibility for super-vising the work of at least two prisoners, who collectively work at least 173 hours a month; the employee must provide on-the-job training to the prisoners he or she supervises and evaluate their work performance; and the prisoners being supervised must perform work that otherwise would be performed by civil service employees.

An October 2008 investigation by the State Auditor had previously found that CDCR overpaid nine office technicians at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility a total of $16,530 for supervising prisoners over a three-year period. Suspecting that the problem was not limited to one facility but rather symptomatic of a general failure of internal controls, the auditor launched another, broader inquiry.

In its second investigation, reported in a November 17, 2009 letter to Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders, the State Auditor reviewed a random sample of monthly differential payments made to 153 CDCR employees at six facilities over a 12-month period, from March 2008 through February 2009.

Payments were deemed to be potentially improper if documentation indicated either that the employee had not in fact supervised two prisoners, or that the prisoners had not collectively worked at least 173 hours. The payments were not classified as actually improper, however, unless the employee failed to meet those requirements for either two or more consecutive months or for more than four of the 12 months in the review period.

The auditor found that 23 of the 153 reviewed employees received improper differential payments totaling $34,512. Extrapolating from that data, the State Auditor estimated that overall the CDCR had overpaid prisoner-supervising employees between $237,711 and $588,376 in improper differentials during the 12-month period that was examined.

The auditor concluded that the improper payments were attributable, in all likelihood, to the lack of internal controls necessary to ensure that employees who supervise prisoner-workers satisfy all of the requirements for receiving pay differentials. It recommended that the CDCR initiate collection efforts to recover the improper overpayments. The report is on PLN’s website. See: California State Auditor Report, I2009-0702.

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