U.S. Department of Agriculture May Be Overbilling Slaughter Houses

August 23, 2013

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) uses an outdated payroll system that measures employees' hours in 15-minute increments, meaning it doesn't know exactly how long its employees actually work, according to a recent report by the USDA inspector General (IG). As a result, FSIS may be charging slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants for time inspectors never worked, says the Washington Examiner.

Between the inaccurate time clocks and a payroll process that requires hours to be entered manually each pay period into two different systems, FSIS's payroll and billing is a tangled mess. The discrepancy between the two systems meant FSIS incorrectly charged slaughterhouses for millions of dollars for overtime in 2011 and 2012.

  • An IG analysis found more than 162,000 hours originally recorded in WebTA, the system used to log inspector hours, never showed up in Feebill, used to bill slaughterhouses for inspectors' time.
  • The discrepancy may have cost the agency as much as $10.6 million, according to the IG.

But the reverse problem also happened, complicating things further. More than 72,000 hours recorded in Feebill weren't recorded in WebTA, meaning the agency may also have overbilled slaughterhouses for as much as $4.7 million.

Many inspectors are also scheduled for dozens of hours of overtime each pay period, working 12-hour shifts and six-day weeks, according to the IG report. More than 40 percent of FSIS's approximately 10,000 inspectors averaged at least 120 hours per pay period in 2012, and one averaged 179 hours.

Source: Michal Conger, "USDA Spends $4 Million on Time Clocks, Doesn't Know How Long Food Inspectors Work," Washington Examiner, August 14, 2013.

 

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