A member of staff in a local authority earned a staggering €53,145 in overtime in a single year, according to an internal audit.
The employee was one of 20 at Tipperary County Council that brought in at least €17,000 on top of their ordinary salary that year, the audit found.
The internal audit said this raised concerns “over [the] health and safety of both employees and the public” given the volume of extra hours being worked.
The investigation also found that nearly two-thirds of hours worked on overtime were paid at the double-time rate and that there was no policy in place at the local authority for its management.
The audit said one employee, who had worked the most overtime of all, had on eight different occasions worked at least 65 hours in a single week.
Another had worked between 60 and 73 hours per week on 10 different occasions.
However, the council said in a statement they were satisfied that the safety of staff was not compromised by overtime arrangements and that it was all earned on a “bona fide basis”.
The internal audit also highlighted practices that it described as “unworked overtime” where an employee was paid for more work than what was actually involved.
It said: “For example, there may be arrangements in place locally to pay a staff member two hours overtime to carry out a task, outside normal working hours such as opening and closing of playgrounds, that may take 15 minutes, resulting in 1hr 45mins of ‘unworked overtime’.”
The report recommended a full review of management of overtime, and also flagged the issue of some staff having dual roles within the council for long periods of time.
They said many of the top overtime earners had these dual roles leaving them regularly working between 60 and 70 hours per week.
“In some instances, such arrangements seem to have been left in place for significant periods of time resulting in substantial overtime being incurred by specific employees,” said the report.
The council, in a statement, said that the description of “unworked overtime” in the annual report was not a valid representation of how staff are paid for out of hours duties.
They said: “The initial ‘call-out’ allowance is benchmarked to the value of four hours at double time, as per the national agreement in relation to on-call.”
A second internal audit on fire services in the county also raised areas of concern for the council.
It said there were differences in how part-time firefighters were paid and given holidays in the north and south of the county, which needed to be standardised.
The report also said a system where some council employees were also part-time firefighters was open to abuse because accurate logs of work and time sheets were not being maintained.
It also raised the risk of duplicate payments where a person could be paid for being on duty at both the council and within the fire service.
The audit said: “In one instance, Internal Audit noted that an employee assigned to Roads had been reported as being present for a particular week and was charged to a roads job code as a result.
"The employee was paid for that week, included acting allowances, eating on site allowance etc.
“When this week was cross-referenced to the activity in the Fire Service for that particular fire-fighter it was noted that he was also in attendance at the training centre for four days training. He was paid for his training days in the following payment run.”
In a statement, the council said that arrangements for fire-fighters who were also council employees were a matter between the person and their line manager.
It said in many cases, attendance at training was done when the person was on annual leave and that other fire-fighters built up time off in lieu.
They said there was also a major difficulty in recruitment of fire-fighters and that it was “a positive initiative” that the council supported some staff in carrying out dual roles in the fire service.