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 Investigation Continued: Census Bureau wastes $3 million…or more?

NOTE: We urge whistleblowers to contact us about this issue and any other issues that you may have experienced. MyTwoCensus staff will always protects your anonymity and provide resources and advice to assist you.

Soon 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 will be fired for speaking out, even though whistleblowers are protected by the law) contacted us with their personal stories.

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Below, please find one reader’s personal story (All details of this story have been fact-checked. MyTwoCensus will hereafter refer to this employee as Jane Doe):

“Please do not reveal my name.  A fellow census worker gave me your website tonight.  They do not have the courage to complain, and I probably should not, but I have always had more courage than sense.

Regarding Census Bureau use of FedEx – you will not believe the extent of it.  From November 2008, through late April 2009, every field employee was REQUIRED to FedEx a payroll form every day that they worked.  That is one page and a carbon copy of it.
I began working on December X, 2008, as a Recruiter, and worked 5 to 6 days per week through February X, 2009 when all recruiters in XXXXXXXXXX were abruptly laid off.  Not only did it cost them the FedEx rate everyday for my payroll report, but they required that I drive it to the nearest drop box every day and paid me $12.75 for the one hour round trip, plus $14.63 for the 25 mile round trip – every day!  For every recruiter!
If we had been allowed to use the post office, the envelopes/packages would have been picked up at my home.  I would not have had to drive to a drop box, and when I had a larger package the nearest post office is 25 miles (50 miles round trip) closer than the nearest FedEx store.”

After speaking with the Public Information Office at the Census Bureau’s national headquarters in Suitland Maryland, MyTwoCensus was told that FedEx was used to “protect confidential information.”

MyTwoCensus followed up with the 2010 Census employee (Jane Doe) who provided the above statement. She replied, “The information that I received was primarily not confidential information, but rather, it was instructions on how to perform my duties. The information that I sent was primarily my daily payroll report. It contained my name, my employee ID number, and my hours worked.”

This employee provided MyTwoCensus with FedEx package information/photos to corroborate what she told us.

Is this sensitive information or confidential information? Hardly! The names and ID numbers of Census Bureau employees are already highly visible on Census Bureau employees’ ID badges.

Just to clarify that MyTwoCensus isn’t looking to start trouble, Jane Doe told us, “On days that I sent more than one envelope, those packages did contain confidential materials with applicants identification information.”

Now that we have laid out the facts, we are awaiting a more thorough response from the Census Bureau…

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6 Responses to “FedEx-gate Investigation Continued: Census Bureau wastes $3 million…or more?”

  1. ex-ELCO employee Says:

    Based on the Census definition, your name and ID number are considered PII. It is ridiculous that the Census considers those two pieces of information PII, yet has field workers write their employee IDs on the emergency contact card, considering the PII training specifically says, “make sure that all PII and Title 13 material is out of plain sight of others”.

  2. My Two Census » Blog Archive » Fedex-gate Investigation Part 3: Microsoft Word is too difficult for the Census Bureau…FedEx is the solution! Says:

    [...] obtained an internal memo from the Census Bureau that directs employees to use FedEx every time they want to make a change to a document…hmmm, in most worlds using Microsoft [...]

  3. 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.

  4. 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

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