Georgia taxpayers spent more than $1.1 million so that state Department of Labor (DOL) employees could eat meals — free of charge to them — during a 15-month period.
This, according to a new report from the Office of the State Inspector General (OIG).
Inspector General Scott McAfee sent a copy of the report to The Georgia Star News on Tuesday.
“By offering to purchase meals, DOL removed any incentive for individual employees to prepare and bring their own meal to the office, a practice that is generally more cost-effective and efficient when compared to retail purchases,” McAfee said in the report.
Exactly, 1,026 DOL employees accepted meals when COVID-19 forced the DOL to have staffing shortages, the report said.
The food purchases continued without interruption until June 11, 2021, when Georgia Department of Administrative Services [DOAS] suspended the DOL’s ability to buy meals using a purchasing card (p-card). This, despite the DOL’s objections, according to the report.
According to the report, DOL administrators discouraged staff from leaving the premises so they would lower or remove the risk of staff catching COVID-19. Restaurant availability at that time was also extremely scarce.
McAfee said DOL employees had alternatives.
“Other possible expenditures existed that could have better tackled the challenges posed to DOL by the pandemic. For example, an agency can obtain conditional pay supplements for employees as compensation for a higher workload, hire additional employees, or purchase teleworking equipment,” McAfee said.
“And even if those examples are inapplicable, just because the DOL could spend money doesn’t mean that it should. Unspent money can always be returned to the state or federal treasury.”
The DOL purchased meals on 285 days for an average of 638 employees on each occasion, the report said. The most frequently used merchants included common fast-food restaurants such as Chick-fil-A (more than $80,000 on 442 transactions), Zaxby’s ($22,961.78 on 383 transactions), and Pizza Hut ($18,125 on 273 transactions).
“Other merchants less commonly associated with budget-conscious expenditures included Fox Brothers BBQ (over $44,000 on 20 transactions), Olive Garden ($6,709 on 67 transactions), and Proof of the Pudding Catering (over $24,000 on 11 transactions),” according to the report.
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