Using seven years’ worth of payment data, the Austin American-Statesman found Texas officials rewarding political allies and high-paid managers with big bonuses. In recent years, workers have received more than $270 million in bonuses from state agencies.

The paper analyzed 133,000 bonuses payments from 111 agencies and found that the use of bonuses has risen sharply. Officials are free to issue the payments with almost no oversight. Merit bonuses can go undetected as long as agencies meet budgets approved by lawmakers.