My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

FedEx-gate: Census Bureau wastes $3 million

We hope that the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and Commerce Department’s Inspector General are paying close attention to this investigation. MyTwoCensus thanks our readers who alerted us to the following story. If you have received FedEx packages from the Census Bureau, we urge you to contact us immediately and share your stories as well.

The initial tip that led to this investigation came from a former Census Bureau employee who wrote to us, “On Tuesday, May 26, I received a FED EX package from the temporary East Los Angeles office of the Census marked “PRIORITY OVERNIGHT DELIVERY” containing one thing: a regular-size white envelope, with my address written on it, containing two pieces of official paperwork: (a) 1-page personnel office document stating I was hired March 30, and (b) 1-page personnel office document stating I was let go April 20 because of lack of work. I have no idea why they sent this PRIORITY OVERNIGHT DELIVERY, but at $20 or so a pop, times 140,000 workers nationwide, that’s a lot of money. ($2.8 million in fact).”

Below, please find an airbill sent last week from another local 2010 Census office in a different region. The problem, in this and thousands of other instances, is that the message inside this $20 FedEx package could have just as easily been sent using standard first class mail via the U.S. Postal Service (for a mere ¢44) to reach its non-urgent nearby location within 24 hours. MyTwoCensus is currently trying to determine just how widespread this problem has become. We certainly hope that $3 million or more has not already been wasted.

fedexairbillspokane1MyTwoCensus hopes that this wasteful spending will be stopped immediately, hopefully before the 1.4 million people who will be  hired for the 2010 headcount are also sent non-urgent messages via FedEx. As the U.S. Postal Service goes further and further into debt, one wonders why government agencies are failing to use their own counterparts.

MyTwoCensus will be filing a Freedom of Information Act request by the close of business today to ensure that these numbers become public. On Friday we asked the Public Information Office at the U.S. Census Bureau to provide us answers to our questions about the use of Fedex, and after following up throughout the day today, we still have not receieved any official comment.

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31 Responses to “FedEx-gate: Census Bureau wastes $3 million”

  1. Dane Says:

    I was also with the Census but I received my documents in standard mail only. The $3,000,000 figure is grossly over estimated.

  2. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Thanks for your comment Dane. In fact, we have additional evidence that we will be posting shortly that demonstrates how the $3 million figure may very well be at the lower end of the spectrum…stay tuned!

  3. Lister Says:

    The first official document was hand delivered to me by my supervisor. I never received any termination notice, but did just receive and extension thru 7/29 via USPS. The effective date on it is 5/29/09. I have no idea what this means since my last day was in mid May.

  4. Lister Says:

    I just called regarding the extension, and it looks like I’m picked up for the next phase… whenever that starts.

  5. spokane 0602 Says:

    Yeah, I, too, got my work papers just handed to me by my CL in a big 8-1/2″ x 11″ white envelope with smaller white envelope inside (hey! what’s the cost of those big white envelopes, huh?), and even the Seattle Regional Office sends me payroll stuff via regular U.S. mail. But anything else correspondence-wise from the Admin in Spokane, WA has been sent to me via Fed Ex Priority Overnight, oft times with return Fed Ex Priority Overnight mailer included. $40 round trip. And yet if I mail a letter to Spokane which is the LCO I worked out of it gets there next day by U.S. mail without fail.

  6. My Two Census » Blog Archive » Congressman weighs in on inconsistent hiring figures Says:

    [...] We understand that many of our readers are hoping to find out more information about the FedEx-gate Scandal. We will be holding our next post on this issue until tomorrow morning as we are currently [...]

  7. Anonymous CL Says:

    All of the hiring/departing/pay-stub paperwork was sent to me by standard USPS mail. Some in large envelopes, some in small envelopes, some in small envelopes inside large envelopes, some sent to incorrect addresses and bounced back as undeliverable and then sent again weeks later to the correct address, but all using standard USPS mail.

    The Census Bureau does have some kind of big account with FedEx, but I think it is supposed to be mostly for sending bulk supplies to offices (FedEx is decently price-competitive on large packages), and for Field Operations Supervisors to submit the on-paper payroll forms for the first few days of training before the employees’ electronic accounts get activated (using FedEx to ensure the forms submitted one afternoon/evening arrive at the office early the very next morning for timely processing, which can be assured with a premium overnight type of service).

    But some local/regional offices have probably been inconsistently misusing the FedEx account for things it wasn’t supposed to be intended for. And it probably would have looked better for the government agency to use the comparable package and premium services offered by the US Postal Service instead of giving a contract to FedEx.

  8. Anon Says:

    I’m a permanent employee and this is standard procedure. The Census Bureau has a different rate for FedEx so the cost is SIGNIFICANTLY lower than $20. It’s a non-issue.

  9. Madeline Says:

    @ Anon: It’s significantly less than $20, but is it significantly more than 44 cents?

  10. QC CL Says:

    As a crew leader I received two FedEx shipments a week with production charts and handouts for my crew on several occasions. Some shipments were only one sheet of paper. Most administrative info came via USPS. Seemed like a waste to me, but the government is all about following procedures. I wondered why they didn’t use USPS priority shipments for most things. A few times I was at home when FedEx delivered by 10:30 a.m. Every other day I didn’t see the package until I got home at 5:30 or 6, so priority arrival by 10:30 was a waste of money.

    As far as I know, all administrative/employment information sent to my crew was by USPS.

  11. YourMomIsEnumerated Says:

    Threadjack: When is the OLQ training getting underway? A few of us were led to believe that we’d be picked up for the next phase but so far there’s been no word from our ELCO.

  12. QC Anywhere USA Says:

    YourMomIsEnumerated: Neither of us were selected for the next phase. If you haven’t been told otherwise, you were *not* one of the chosen few. Instead of putting the ELCO staff on the unemployment rolls (and giving us a few more paychecks) the USCB elected to downgrade the ELCO staff pay grade for the interim and give *them* the jobs. Thus, in their infinite wisdom, the ELCO staff from wherever they are located in your state will be sent to all corners of your state from that central office, incurring time and mileage in the process, rather than hiring a few of us local folks who are within easy driving distance of most OLQ’s and who would be glad to get the paychecks. At least the ELCO staff could qualify for unemployment benefits; for the rest of us, too bad!! Oh, well, if I’m not working 40 hours a week, I have more time to visit the food bank and scrounge for whatever scraps of work I can get, right? And, yes, I was told that if I worked hard and put in long hours, I, too, could work in the OLQ phase. Ha.

  13. Anon Says:

    @Madeline I don’t know exactly what the rate is. The last time I heard it was a couple of dollars, so yes, more than 44 cents. If someone forgets to put the right account number on a package and they have to pay the full rate, they get very upset. Everything used to go FedEx a few years ago, but now much of the stuff goes USPS.

    The double envelope thing is because of the privacy stuff. Anything with PII is supposed to be double wrapped in case the outer envelope gets opened. I’m not defending it, just passing along info.

  14. Anonymous CL Says:

    Anon: They didn’t ‘double-wrap’ consistently at all, though. Many things weren’t double-wrapped; and many of those that were double-wrapped had only been sent like that because the first single-wrapped mailing was sent to an erroneous address (and received a ‘return to sender’ sticker), and was then re-sent inside another envelope.

  15. My Two Census » Blog Archive » FedEx-gate Investigation Continued: Census Bureau wastes $3 million…or more? Says:

    [...] after MyTwoCensus broke the story about the Census Bureau’s gross overuse of FedEx, readers (all of whom requested anonymity to protect themselves because they are afraid that they [...]

  16. ex-ELCO employee Says:

    QC Anywhere, I think you are mistaken. My ELCO has been cut back to a skeleton crew. Hiring for GQV does not begin until late July/early August, and the operation doesn’t start until almost September. Also, I have been told that once an employee transfers from the office to the field, they cannot come back to the office. (I don’t know if that is a local, regional, or national policy, though.)

    FYI, an ELCO clerk makes about 75% of what an enumerator makes. ELCO supervisors less than a dollar more than enumerators… they are paid less than crew leaders. Managers make slightly more than FOSes.

    On the original topic: Did you know… USPS subcontracts FedEx for many delivery services…?

  17. QC Anywhere USA Says:

    ex-ELCO employee: re. ELCO staff doing the OLQ work, that is what my CL told me. Your other comments make me wonder about the truth of what they have been told, which was relayed to the enumerators, given the amount of erroneous information that has been passed down the chain of command previously.

  18. Jack Martin @ Census Says:

    Census Bureau policy requires the use of a commercial delivery service, when the guaranteed delivery and tracking of documents are required to ensure the protection of an applicant’s or employee’s personally identifiable information (i.e. name, date of birth, social security number, address, etc.). The Census Bureau has a negotiated rate and receives a substantial discount for delivery services from Fed Ex — currently $4.52 for a priority overnight package, with lower rates being available for less urgent packages.

    All termination letters sent to temporary field staff working out of Census Bureau local census offices up until last month included personally identifiable information that required confirmation that packages were delivered and received by the intended recipient. The Census Bureau discontinued the inclusion of personally identifiable data in termination letters last month in part to avoid delivery charges. Local census offices are now using the U.S. Postal Service for termination notice letters as the risk for disclosure of personally identifiable data has been eliminated.

    Additionally, the Census Bureau, like all other federal agencies, uses commercial delivery services when needed for more immediate delivery.

  19. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Note: The above comment is from Jack Martin, who works in the Public Information Office of the U.S. Census Bureau.

    $4.52 for priority overnight? Does that apply if a package is going from, say, San Francisco to Seattle, a far distance, even though Seattle is San Francisco’s regional Census Bureau headquarters? It seems like $4.52 wouldn’t make the service profitable, especially since I know that when I use FedEx’s smallest envelope for Priority Overnight it can easily cost me $27 to send a package a few hundred miles away. On a similar note, why doesn’t the government use the U.S. Postal Service?

    Why did the termination policy change last month? Does that mean that you admit that a significant amount of money was wasted in this process?

    Thanks,

    Stephen

  20. unlucky elco Says:

    a little more unbelievable waist of funds…. did you know that ga workers were fired & the (new) area manager for the ga elco allowed workers from all over florida (including miami) to come to ga & work – while getting paid their florida rates (which is several $’s more an hour) and let’s not forget the per diem & hotel that was paid for by the rcc (they didn’t even have to wait to get reimbursed) and mileage — which went on for several weeks (because they didn’t know their way around the rural areas) and some of their bmw’s & mercedes that were driven from miami got stuck in the muddy rural roads — oh almost forget that most of them had to get new cell phones because the ones they had did not have coverage in our area – which census paid for as well – the elco qc staff was fired as well & the amqa from a florida office came & brought her personal staff to fill the qc dept. staff. (airfare was also approved by area manager) all because the area manager had a personal bet with another elco….. who would finish first! i cannot believe that the local politicians would allow the unemployment rate to go up so that florida’s can go down! can anyone top that? i also heard that they let the remainder of the office staff go (who were the best anywhere) today leaving only managers & 1 clerk.. so much for getting ready for gqv — i can’t imagine why they say that census is already over budget. i thought the president signed something so that census would get $ to help provide jobs? haven’t they “created” jobs throughout the government to help with the recession & unemployment rates?!

  21. unlucky elco Says:

    i forget to mention all those florida workers were allowed unlimited overtime to complete the work 2 months early while many of the local listers were fired for working overtime (that there cl had verbally approved)

  22. Anonymous CL Says:

    unlucky elco: Wow, some particularly bad problems in your area.

    FWIW, this part isn’t actually untoward, just normal: “many of the local listers were fired for working overtime (that there cl had verbally approved)”
    This is (supposed to be, although not treated properly with those out-of-state people) standard procedure… CLs were not actually allowed to approve overtime themselves; all enumerator overtime had to be approved by the FOS above them, and the AMFO/AMQA above them. So if a CL gave ‘approval’ to someone’s overtime without their authority for that approval having been passed down the chain from above, it was null-and-void.

  23. Anon Says:

    In 2000 for the enumeration project, our area also had people bused in from another state to finish up our work. The reason was supposedly because the Regional Director had a bet with another one. This was not Georgia and Florida. Can this possibly be true AND widespread?? What a horrible waste of funds.

  24. mystry Says:

    and they say they ‘don’t play favorites’ with all their sterile paperwork and computers. Of course they do. That FL sit. sounds pretty ‘sleazy’ for real.

    I’m really bothered here that I am expected to recruit (I’m and RA) more people for a few management jobs that may not even exist. I’m concerned about Americans in general, that if these are the kinds of jobs (census) available to us, unemployment/’bailout’ sounds like a better option. I feel literally foolish when people ask me ‘when do these jobs start?’, or ‘when is this office going to open?’, and I don’t have an answer. I have been told at least twice internally that, the ‘office in my town is not going to open at all’. I’d almost rather have my arm chopped off every day, but ‘employment’ is my background and ‘recruiting’ is something I have experience with.

    I started this job as a supporter of geneology, civil service, and information. I am a patriot, but I had no idea how misleading, wasteful, and chaotic this job was going to be. For now, I have to do my best with it. I’m assuming I’m like a lot of other people, desperate for a living wage.

    I changed my mind (like the census does every few minutes).

    WHERE’S MY BAILOUT!!!

  25. Lee Lewis Says:

    Unlucky Elco, we are in same area. Yes, Flordia is a piece of work.
    Flordia was mean, hateful and bullied myself, my crew, and my FOS. They produced each 5-6 AA’s per day in rural areas. No way is this possible.
    So we know southeast Georgia’s mapping IS NOT right. The Flordia Manager that took over the Savannah office, called one of my listers on Mothers Day, and forced her to mark 5 AA’s complete from her home, she was sending her 8 more to do when the lister got ahold of me, and I stopped it. I really thought this part of the government was honest and sincere in their work, but they are just a bunch of #@###. God HELP this country…

  26. Lee Lewis Says:

    mystry, whats your hometown that the census is not opening.

  27. Census makes no Sense Says:

    unlucky elco, Lee Lewis, I too am aware of the underhanded take-over of the Savannah ELCO. I am also aware of the hostile and intimidating atmosphere that the Florida Crew brought into the Savannah workplace.

    I’m not a highly educated individual, but I know when something isn’t right.

    I saw with my own eyes as the LCOM walked around stone faced, and tight lipped while this N—-l S—–s, the replacement AMQA barked orders at everyone. Since when does an AMQA waltz into an office and have seniority over an LCOM?

    Office personnel looked like deer caught in headlights. I know of one office personnel that went ahead and asked them to lay her off for fear of being fired, slandered, and not being able to draw unemployment.

    I worked closely with the original AMQA and I know the only thing she was guilty of was trying to do her job with the limited means made available to her. She didn’t even have an adequate employee pool to pull QC Listers from, want to know why? Because Atlanta pulled the plug on the recruiting phase six-weeks early in this area. Testing didn’t even make it into some counties. Why? That’s what I want to know. Best I could gather right from the start is that it was all about which ELCO could come in first, first for what? What was the prize for being #1 in the region?

    I’ll tell you what I think, not what I know. I think there are some people out there that are getting kick backs. If x-amount of money is allotted for each phase, and the phase is cut short, what happens to the rest of the money? Two phases have now been cut short, Recruiting and Address Canvasing, where did the rest of the money go? Oh I know, it must have went to FedEx.

    We are nothing but a bunch of poor slobs who stood up there and took an oath that obviously has no meaning what so ever. What’s really sickening is that most of us felt a type of pride stepping into the fields we stepped into. And for what? It’s all just a freaking joke like every other aspect of the government.

    A few suits get richer while the Bermuda shorts gang stands in the unemployment line…again.

    Fooled me once, shame on you, fooled me twice, shame on me. They won’t fool me a third time.

  28. Census makes no Sense Says:

    Oh, how could I forget. The whole lot of them need to be investigated. And to think they want personal information from me with their little door to door interviews and little surveys that are going to be showing up in my mail-box? I don’t think so.

    If they can’t be honest enough to get an accurate count of the USA population, they sure don’t have any business with any of my personal information.

  29. Lee Lewis Says:

    Yes, Census makes no sense, and mystry, ya’ll are 100% correct. No personal information is coming out of my house or families as far as that goes. Get this on the home page article: R-Texas Pete Olson is trying to get Congress to take 565.5 millions of dollars from the Census and give it to NASA for exploration. Census is not happy, saying it will affect the April 1, 2010 door to door process… BOO, HOO. I think this is great, they need to take it all. The Census numbers come from outer space anyway, so maybe NASA can help them add it up???????????????

    I say we promote for people to not answer any questions they have…
    Who ever these leaders of the Census are,(which I feel is ACORN) is classified as a cult…(My opinion only)

    If you want to complain, which many have, and nothing has happened. Call
    The Commerce Department in Washington: Faud Waste and Abuse Office.
    These are the people that are suppose to investigate???????????????
    800-424-5197. Lets all call and get anyone else to call, at least they will have to earn their keep for a few days…

  30. I hear you Says:

    I can see the the major waste of funds on FedEx by the Census Bureau. One on my crew leaders were Priority Overnighted a map of a town in another state but with the same name as in our CLD. This map was just from google maps and above that they sent to us twice. I still have yet to figure out why they were sending us maps for another state.

  31. Cliff Kiger Says:

    A friend of mine received 2 Fedex overnight packages the past 2 Saturdays addressed to Current Resident with Pamphlets explaining how important the Census is. I can’t believe the waste of my tax dollars even though I should.