Wednesday February 27, 2013

MONTPELIER (AP) -- An independent audit of the Vermont State Police payroll performed after a trooper fraudulently claimed large amounts of overtime pay found that the overtime system is vulnerable to fraud and waste but rarely abused, according to the results released on Tuesday.

The audit indicates most Department of Public Safety employees were a low risk for fraud despite problems in the process for approving, reporting and monitoring overtime.

Gov. Peter Shumlin requested the state auditor’s office review the department’s payroll after former Vermont State Police Sergeant James Deeghan was accused in July of padding his time sheets and writing hundreds of fake traffic tickets. Investigators eventually said they that had documented nearly $213,000 in fraud between 2008 and 2012 by Deeghan, who pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to two years in prison in January.

The state contracted StoneTurn Group LLP to do the audit. It reviewed the overtime for all Department of Public Safety employees and processes for reporting and approving those time sheets.

Although the state is planning to implement a new payroll reporting system that is likely to address some of the problems, the audit made recommendations for other changes to prevent fraud.

The audit recommends requiring supervisors to do periodic reviews of overtime and to hold them accountable for errors in time reports. It also advises the state to implement detailed reports to monitor overtime along with periodic independent reviews.

According to the audit, the current system is flawed because it allows troopers to work without prior approval while the use of third-party contracts -- working with local town patrols or through federal grants -- are inherently vulnerable to abuse. The report also cited anecdotal reports that supervisors regularly rubber-stamp time sheets without properly reviewing them.

Public Safety Commission Keith Flynn applauded the effort, saying the report allows the department to make thoughtful and appropriate charges to improve its payroll and overtime process.

"With the implementation of a new state payroll reporting system, the continued routine overtime audits of employees, and the development of more robust program reporting codes, our risk for fraud, abuse and waste will continue to decrease," he said.