Eric Katz | August 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

EPA Paid Transit Benefits to Employees Who Left the Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 continued giving transit benefits to more than one-third of its headquarters employees who left the organization, according to a new report, while in other areas it bought transit cards for employees who did not use the benefit.

EPA has largely ignored oversight requirements from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency’s inspector general said in a report released Wednesday, and has no agency-wide transit benefit policy. The agency spent nearly $10 million subsidizing its employees’ public transportation and parking spending in 2014, about 40 percent of which came from its headquarters employees based in Washington, D.C.

Just one out of 13 EPA office locations fully implemented the oversight standards required by OMB’s 2007 guidance. EPA offices particularly ignored requirements to ask for employees’ home and work addresses; verify employees’ commute costs; and adjust the benefits when an employee was traveling, on leave or moved. Neglecting those checks, the IG said, “increases the possibility that transit subsidies could be paid in excess of the allowable benefit.”

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One office did not even verify those receiving transit benefits actually worked at the agency.

At EPA headquarters, 35 percent of employees who separated from the agency in 2014 continued to receive their transit subsidy at least one month after leaving. While the total money wasted was small, the IG instructed EPA to better coordinate and report separations with the subsidy provider.

At EPA’s Dallas-based region six, agency officials misled employees that their benefit topped out at $60 per month. At the San Francisco-based region nine, the EPA used two different subsidy systems, one that provided debit cards to employees up front and another that reimbursed workers after they spent their own money.

Officials in the Seattle-based region 10 bought transit passes for all employees, though only a fraction actually were eligible for and used the benefit. This led the agency to overspend on the subsidy by $135,000 in 2014.

The auditors recommended the agency provide agency-wide guidance to ensure each EPA office is up to OMB’s transit benefit standards, as well as specific suggestions to each region to eliminate its risk and overspending. EPA management agreed to address all of the IG’s concerns.