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State Employee Bonus Program Under Investigation

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's Legislative Auditor has opened an investigation into a program that rewards workers for saving the state money.

This comes after one Minnesota lawmaker questioned whether millions of dollars were improperly used for state employee bonuses instead.

Gainshare's purpose is to reward state workers who find ways to save money. The state "gains" and workers "share" a percentage of the savings.

But Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, says that's not what's happening.

"It's turned out that it's just sort of a rewards program for people who have done their job," Nash said.

He says the Gainshare program has morphed into a state worker achievement bonus.

"I think this is being completely prevaricated as something else that it was never intended to be," he said.

Gainshare Program
(credit: CBS)

Instead of saving money, documents show workers got bonuses up to $1,000 for "outstanding work," "above and beyond performance … all with a smile and a can-do attitude."

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles is now investigating, and he says it's raising serious questions about the use of public money.

"You're supposed to be able to demonstrate, document that there were actual savings," Nobles said.

Myron Frans, Minnesota's top finance official, says it's not possible to document savings on any state program, but he can reward "great worker achievement."

"We implemented that through our achievement award process, where we provide awards to employees based upon more efficient services or providing extraordinary effort," said Frans, Minnesota's management and budget commissioner.

Rep. Nash says he wants a detailed accounting of the program, which has paid out $6.7 million in worker rewards.

"Show me the money!" Nash said. "To date we haven't seen any of money!"

Commissioner Frans tells WCCO he welcomes the legislative auditor investigation. He says the law specifically allows him to award achievement bonuses instead savings rewards, and that's exactly what state departments are doing.

There is no time table on the legislative auditor investigation, but Nash says he will try to compel state departments to pay it all back if it finds that awards were improperly given.

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