Some state agencies have routinely used temporary workers to circumvent restrictions on hiring traditional staff, a tactic that costs the state money and creates sharp differences in the ways government workers are paid, according to a new report by Inspector General Glenn Cunha’s office.
The report, released over the weekend, found dozens of “temporary” workers who had been employed by the state for years, including 10 who had worked for the state for more than a decade and 20 more who worked at state agencies for at least five years. In one case, a manager attended a retirement party for a popular long-time worker — only to later find the retiree was actually a temp worker.
“For many years, state agencies have misused the temporary help services contracts,” Cunha’s report said.
Overall, the Patrick administration spends about $10.2 million a year on temporary staffing firms and had 361 temp workers in October, including roughly 100 individuals who had been working for the state for at least a year.
The Executive Office of Administration and Finance said it plans to release a new policy by the end of the year to address the issue.
“This policy makes clear that agencies can only hire temporary workers on a short term basis,” said Alex Zaroulis, an agency spokeswoman, who said the administration began work on the new policy last year. “We welcome the Inspector General’s report, as it will certainly be helpful as we refine and implement this policy to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent effectively.”
Many of the long-term temporary employees work for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission to review disability benefits for the Social Security Administration, because the federal government has capped the number of full-time staff the unit can hire.
But the inspector general found long-time temp workers scattered in other departments doing jobs normally done by permanent workers, including an accountant for the State Police who has worked for the agency as a part-time temp worker for 11 years since retiring with a state pension.
In many cases, managers told investigators they were forced to rely on temporary workers because the state barred them from hiring additional permanent employees. However, in some cases, the report also confirmed that agencies were correctly using temp workers for short-term projects.
The inspector general also found other problems, including cases where state agencies incorrectly paid temp workers for holidays, gave pay raises to temp workers, and told staffing agencies who to hire. For instance, the Group Insurance Commission recruited interns and a retiree — but hired them through temporary staffing agencies, forcing the commission to pay extra fees to the temp firm.
The state currently has a statewide contract to handle temporary staffing workers, which it awarded to The Resource Connection in January 2012. In most cases, the company collects a 40 percent markup on workers’ wages. So if a worker earns $15 per hour, the staffing firm will bill the state for $21 per hour and keep the other $6.