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Waste of the Day: Nebraska Parks Claimed Employees Logged An Impossible 66-Hour Workday

February 19, 2024

Topline: The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission received $15,837 from a federal grant while claiming an individual volunteer worked up to 66 hours in a single day, according to a Feb. 2 report from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Inspector General.

Key facts: The DOI’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides grants to state agencies to restore and maintain fish habitats.

The Fish and Wildlife Service reimburses states for 75% of the costs related to fish habitat projects. States must cover the other 25%, either with actual cash or with an equivalent item such as hours of labor.

Open the Books
Waste of the Day 2.19.24

From 2019 to 2021, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission claimed that their volunteers worked 16,436 hours to help cover the state’s 25% share of federal grants.

But the Inspector General found that Nebraska incorrectly reported the number of volunteer hours.

Three instructors for an Aquatic Education Program each claimed to have worked an impossible amount of time, with one instructor logging 66 hours in a single day.

Another volunteer did not log any hours for themself, yet documents presented to the federal government for reimbursement said the volunteer worked for 20 hours.

The Inspector General questioned 219 hours in total from several volunteers, which Nebraska claimed were worth $5,279 toward the state’s share of grant funding. Nebraska was then awarded triple that money from the federal government for those hours.

The report only reviewed about 10% of volunteer hours, so there could be more undiscovered errors. The Inspector General did not indicate whether the discrepancy was a genuine mistake or indicative of fraud.

Background: The Nebraska parks department was also giving some of its employees high pay.

The department paid out 20 six-figure salaries in the 2019-2021 period covered in the IG report, according to records at OpenTheBooks.com. Director James Douglas’s salary reached up to $169,000 in 2021; Nebraska’s governor made just $105,000 that year.

Supporting quote: The Nebraska parks department disagreed that the 66-hour workdays were excessive, since they included preparation time.

“Over the course of this program, the project leader and our volunteers have put on multiple clinics and events. When planning an event with over 150 participants and multiple volunteers, it is our experience that planning occurs for multiple months in advance,” Federal Aid Administrator Tammy Snyder wrote in her response to the IG.

Summary: One has to admire Nebraska’s passion for conserving wild fish habitats; it must take incredible effort to work more than 24 hours in a single day.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.
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