California employees owe state US$13.3 million in unpaid loans

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Official photograph of Controller John Chiang.

The California Controller's office reports that eleven state agencies have given US$13.3 million in pay and travel advances that have not been collected.

Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order to recover uncollected loans by the agencies. A press release from the governor's office states, "The Governor’s Executive Order seeks to recover taxpayer dollars by directing state agencies and departments to clear salary and travel advances within 30 days through an expense claim." Any outstanding balance will be deducted from employees' paychecks under the governor's order after the 30 days.

Under California state law, state employees are permitted to receive advances for hardship, travel, and other circumstances. These advances cannot be collected by agencies after three years without the employee's consent.

State Controller John Chiang said in a statement, "The state’s poor debt collection and accounting practices are fleecing public coffers at a time when vital public programs are being decimated by unprecedented budget cuts." Chiang's office expects there will be more money unaccounted for, including some from the California Highway Patrol (CHP). California state law mandates that anyone convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol is required to pay for the investigation. The CHP has not collected this money.

The California Department of Transportation, also called Caltrans, has the largest debt of the eleven agencies: $3.2 million. Cal Fire, or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, "had an outstanding balance of $1.44 million as of June 30, 2008. An overwhelming portion of that balance was related to employee salary and travel advances," according to a controller's office audit.

Chiang's office had informed former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger there were outstanding debts, but Schwarzenegger's administration did not take action.

All eleven agencies have agreed to hand over any delinquent accounts to the controller's office, who will collect these debts.


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