Audit finds too many temporary jobs

Published May 19, 2005

TAMPA - Every year, the County Commission pays the wages for thousands of essential jobs to the tune of millions of dollars.

As it turns out, commissioners know less about those jobs than they thought.

A recently released internal audit sheds light on a personnel system that is apparently overloaded with temporary workers. The report found that many remain in their jobs longer than civil service rules allow. Meanwhile, hundreds of staff positions go unfilled.

The audit described a skewed system that gives administrators unusual power to hire employees without the usual checks. The jobs can be filled without competitive bidding from temporary services, there need be no formal interview, no background checks or drug testing, the audit concluded.

In some cases, the temporary workers have received pay raises, promotions, and even contributions to the state pension fund, said the $54,000 report, which was prepared by the county's internal performance auditor Kathleen Mathews.

On Wednesday, commissioners asked for more information, and made it clear they want the system fixed. Voting unanimously, they gave County Administrator Pat Bean 30 days to ask for explanations from department heads, and compile their comments into a report for them.

Bean said she already plans to revise the temporary worker policy to address the issues.

"We have an old system that's broken," commissioner Brian Blair said.

On one sample day, the county employed 259 temporary workers; on another, 554, the audit showed. Meanwhile, a check found that 373 official positions were vacant, including 58 that had gone unfilled for more than a year.

The county spends about $7-million annually on temporary workers, many of whom fill important jobs, Bean said. While surprised at the extent of the reliance on temporary employees, she said the county needs them to fill in at Head Start and children's shelters, as well as departments such as Public Works, which needed extra help after last year's hurricanes.