OIG’s Audit of the Department of Water Management’s Monitoring of Overtime Finds That Despite Policies, Resources Were Not Being Utilized Effectively

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit of the Department of Water Management’s (DWM) overtime monitoring, with the objective of determining whether DWM effectively monitored overtime to prevent waste and abuse. Our audit focused on the Bureau of Water Supply and the Bureau of Operations and Distribution, which accounted for 96.8% of the DWM’s overtime expenditures from 2015 through 2019. Based on the Department’s responses, OIG concluded that the Department developed policies and tools to manage overtime but did not utilize these resources consistently, with management personnel not consistently maintaining overtime records and not understanding the full range of overtime processes (which included compliance with 17 different collaborative bargaining agreements and more than 14,000 labor tracking code combinations for monitoring overtime).

OIG made several recommendations to DWM to improve its overtime monitoring, such as:

  • updating and distributing overtime policies;
  • using existing monitoring tools to inform department-wide operational decisions;
  • developing internal reporting tools that provide a real-time view of overtime usage;
  • identifying, documenting, and standardizing overtime “call-out” processes; and
  • retaining overtime records and updating existing transfer documentation.

In response, DWM stated that it agrees with our recommendations and will make better use of overtime monitoring tools to promote compliance with its revised overtime policy by implementing changes, including:

  • reviewing the overtime policy, to include changes to labor tracking codes and distributing the revised policy to all supervisors and timekeepers;
  • allowing supervisors who are responsible for overtime approval access to internal overtime reports to help them manage overtime for their divisions;
  • directing all bureaus to post their overtime rotation lists so that all employees have the ability to see their respective list; and
  • reviewing and updating the transfer request form so that the instructions are clear on which assignments/locations employees can select.

“Full follow-through on proposed improvements coming out of this audit would permit DWM to eliminate potential waste or abuse of overtime,” said Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “DWM, like all City departments, need to be proactive in monitoring patterns and curbing practices that put preventable strain on the City’s overstretched resources and undermine public confidence in the City as a steward of scarce fiscal resources. Effective administration in this instance is complicated by the fact that DWM operations are governed by 17 different collective bargaining agreements resulting in over 14,000 pay code variations. We note this to highlight an opportunity for the City’s labor negotiators to give greater consideration to the operational burdens across CBAs in future bargaining rounds. In the meantime, established and proven policies are an essential, foundational step, but implementation, standardization, and records retention will be crucial to long-term success.”

The full report can be found online: bit.ly/DWMOvertime

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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: www.igchicago.org.