The Office of Public Accountability has released an analysis of GovGuam’s public safety overtime payouts which found that over a five-year period, the Guam Fire Department and the Department of Corrections were consistently blowing through their allotted overtime budgets.
GFD had an increase of 44 percent in their overtime pay while DOC’s overtime went up by 65 percent. The Guam Police Department actually saw a drop of 33 percent in their overtime.
In all, the three agencies are spending way more than the legislature is appropriating them for overtime, taking up on average 84 percent of all GovGuam overtime from the general fund.
The highest percentage increase in overtime was at DOC, which is suffering from a dwindling number of officers, with only some 160 in 2019 compared to more than 300 in years past.
Among the report’s findings, OPA says that overtime was not paid out equitably among the agencies.
Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz said: “GFD was getting paid every two weeks like clockwork. The other two agencies were ‘catch as you can,’ I guess, whenever you can get the money.”
The report also calls on the Legislature to require GFD to file overtime reports, much like GPD and DOC.
In terms of firefighters, their overtime isn’t quite incurred in the traditional way.
Vincent Duenas, OPA Audit Supervisor, said: “They’re 24 on and then 24 on, in terms of their hours. And they’re allowed to accumulate up to a certain number of hours in the two-week period. And they are able to avail themselves of 14 hours overtime automatically for the Guam Fire Department … 14 hours is automatic for everybody on their paychecks.”
But Cruz says that the overtime pay structure for Guam firefighters is highly protected.
“I still haven’t been able to try to explain to people how the GFD overtime works. Whenever there are attempts to try to address that, it’s met with considerable push back,” Cruz said.
Having spent many years as a senator, Cruz says there have been previous OPA reports and legislation to address the GFD overtime issue, but they haven’t gone anywhere.
While there’s no formal explanation for GPD’s 33 percent drop in overtime, Cruz believes it’s because of a decrease in executive security needs by this administration.
So why all the overtime? Simply put, insufficient staffing and recruiting levels.
“If you talk to some of them, they will tell you about the number of people that couldn’t qualify. They received maybe 300 applicants…but of 300 only 100 passed the test. And of those 100 who passed the test, a whole bunch of them were disqualified for a bunch of other reasons,” Cruz said.
And while the reported numbers may sound shocking, OPA says overtime issues have been plaguing the departments for years.
“This is actually our 5th or 6th report just on personnel costs and overtime. And, this has happened since 2003, I think,” Duenas said.
The most an employee made on overtime was a fire captain who took home some $70,000 in 2017 on top of the base salary. Compare that to the average incoming officer’s pay, which is around $30,000.
Ultimately, the Office of Public Accountability wants agency chiefs and directors who are often griping about shortages in staffing to use this data to bolster their argument for added recruitment funding.
As for future reports, OPA is currently on working on the contentious issue of double pay versus differential pay. That report is due by the end of this fiscal year.