Monday, August 30, 2010

State controller's office to launch 'forensic audit' of MTA - could lead to criminal charges


The state's top fiscal watchdog has launched an exhaustive probe into questionable overtime payments and possible fraud at the MTA, sources told the Daily News.

The state controller's office could announce the so-called forensic audit as early as Monday. It's expected to be the most thorough review of the transit authority's finances ever.

The audit follows a more targeted probe last year that revealed an excess of unnecessary overtime. It also showed some employees were getting paid for hours they didn't actually work.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials reached late Sunday showed no fear over the new investigation.

"We welcome the controller's assistance as we continue to fulfill our commitment to reduce overtime," said Jeremy Soffin, an MTA spokesman.

The earlier audit, released by state Controller Thomas DiNapoli in September, revealed what he described as troublesome practices. Low-level supervisors were assigning themselves overtime. There was lax oversight by higher- ups and a dearth of documentation for overtime claims.

The MTA spent nearly $600 million in overtime last year.

Routine audits look broadly at finances and management practices, focusing on such things as where savings can be achieved. Forensic audits delve deeper to identify fraud and can lead to criminal charges.

The MTA, which came under new management last fall, had begun to target excessive overtime even before the September audit as it has battled budget gaps resulting in part from state funding cuts and lower-than-projected tax revenues in the continued recession.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder has said he wants to change work rules to increase efficiency and curb alleged sick-time abuse by some workers.

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