Audit Shows Generous Bonuses for State Workers

Audit Shows Generous Bonuses for State Workers

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John Daley reporting Utah's state budget might be severely crunched, and the state's economy might be sluggish. But that hasn't stopped state agencies from handing out generous bonuses to hundreds of workers. And, you won't believe some of the reasons.

"This is quite surprising that they'd be giving out bonuses like candy," says Mike Jerman of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

Some of those bonuses were more than $1,000. And sometimes, the reason given for these so-called "performance awards" seems downright laughable.

It's all summed up, in a new state audit. The legislative auditor general Monday released the report about employee incentives and performance awards, also known as cash bonuses and time off.

It finds that in some state agencies, virtually every employee got a bonus for superior performance, and in some cases a worker could get a bonus for something as simple as filling the printer with paper.

The report found at the state's tax commission over the past two years, 75% of the roughly 800 employees working there got bonuses.

Many bonuses came through the so-called star award program.

Price tag to taxpayers--almost $200,000 a year.

Rodney Marrelli, executive director of the Utah State Tax Commission says, "The star award precedes me and all of the commissioners. It's an award, a very small dollar amount to be given to employees by other employees to recognize exceptional work, and sometimes it isn't exceptional."

The reasons for getting a star award were anything but exceptional, including "filling a printer with paper," "assisting with the summer party," "helping cover the phones during the Christmas party," and "faxing a letter for a fellow worker because they had to go to a meeting."

Tax Commission employees getting a star award got either $40 or three hours of administrative leave.

The audit also looks at seven state agencies, finding both last year and the year before that those agencies gave workers roughly $1 million in bonuses.

Percentage of Workers Getting Bonus

  • 17% Transportation
  • 53% Commerce
  • 59% Dept. of Enviro. Quality
  • 64% Tax Commission
  • 87% Community and Econ. Dev.
  • 99% Administrative Services
  • 100% Human Resource Mgmt.

In each agency but one, more than half the employees got bonuses last year. UDOT gave bonuses to 17% of employees, but Administrative Services gave bonuses to 99%, and every single worker at Human Resource Management got a bonus.

"What we're saying is that in hard times, we think that bonuses should be scarce and given out to few at most. We found some agencies that are giving out bonuses to about everybody," says legislative auditor general Wayne Welsh.

In those seven state agencies, 158 got bonuses of more than $1,000. Last year, one worker in Human Resources got a bonus of more than $7,000.

With the state's budget hurting, some--like the Utah Taxpayers Association--are crying foul.

"For these types of bonuses to be given out so routinely at this time is especially disturbing," says Mike Jerman.

The auditor general is working on a final report due out later this year, which will look a most state agenies.

How much is this costing the taxpayer?

If the snapshot of these seven agencies is a fair representation of all state government, then roughly 50% of state workers are getting bonuses.

Annual total cost to the state could be in the range of $5 million.

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