Members from Amtrak police, Transportation Security Administration and local law enforcement agencies participate in Operation RAILSAFE at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station on Sept. 3, 2015. (Official DHS photo by Barry Bahler)

OIG: TSA Potentially Wasting Funds on Ineligible Officers

An Office of the Inspector General (OIG) review has concluded that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may be wasting agency funds on criminal investigators not eligible to receive premium pay.

The OIG review focused on the methods TSA uses to classify criminal investigators. These were found to be adequate and valid, however the timesheet data used were not adequate or valid. The review identified discrepancies in criminal investigators’ timesheet data that raised questions regarding whether they had been correctly classified as law enforcement officers.

Applicable laws and regulations require TSA’s criminal investigators spend at least 50 percent of their time performing criminal investigative duties to be classified as law enforcement officers.

OIG found the FY 2017 timesheet data TSA used to validate that its criminal investigators met the 50 percent requirement were not adequate and valid as the data were not always timely submitted and approved. For example, 48 of the 64 (75 percent) criminal investigators reviewed inconsistently tracked investigative activities in timekeeping systems. OIG says this occurred because Office of Inspection (OOI) officials lacked oversight and accountability for the timesheet submission, review, and approval processes.

Further, criminal investigators and their supervisors did not always complete and approve certification forms as required to verify eligibility for premium pay. In some instances, incorrect timesheet calculations inflated the annual average of unscheduled duty hours criminal investigators worked to be eligible for premium pay. OOI management did not develop and implement guidance to review these key calculations annually.

OIG recommends that TSA strengthen internal controls related to timesheet accuracy by developing and implementing updates to criminal investigators’ performance plans to reflect timely and accurate timesheet submission; guidance and expectations for supervisory bi-weekly timesheet review; and a formal plan for reviewing user access, at least annually, to ensure appropriate system access and permission levels.

The Inspector General also wants TSA to work with its Office of Information Technology to expedite ongoing efforts to acquire systems that will assist the office with its timesheet submission and approval process, thereby improving communication/data transfer between the timekeeping system and the Case Management System.

In addition, TSA should develop, formalize, and implement processes to ensure compliance with management directives requiring that criminal investigators and their supervisors annually complete required forms certifying Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) eligibility.

Finally, OIG recommends that TSA develop and implement guidance to ensure proper review of key calculations annually in the Resource Allocation Module.

TSA concurred with the recommendations and has already taken steps to address the requirements. For example, the agency is working to modify a system it currently uses, and incorporate best practices of other case management systems already in use in the government. TSA reported that it will continue to work closely with its Enterprise Support and Information Technology offices in the development and implementation of a case management system, with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2020.

Read the full report at OIG

The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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