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.

Rumor: PBOCS is down for good…

OK, everyone, I am using this board to try to find some answers about the state of PBOCS (paper-based operations control system) across the US. As of this week (yesterday and today), is the PBOCS system working in your area? How have technical glitches harmed 2010 Census NRFU (non-response follow-up) operations? What have you heard from your higher-ups about 2010 Census operations for the coming week? I know it’s like beating a dead horse in that I’ve discussed these issues over and over again, but it seems like in many places the problems have still not been corrected, so let’s get some reports from the ground. Please state your approximate location in the comments section. Thanks!

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41 Responses to “Rumor: PBOCS is down for good…”

  1. mandy_Reeves Says:

    Um SRM, please for the love of God, you better be serious. Where did this info come from please? This whole census is a cluster eff of the highest caliber.

  2. techy Says:

    PBOCS is *not* down for good. Part of the functionality has been transferred to an Enterprise level system called Peoplesoft. PBOCS itself is still being used for everything except the one function now being handled by the Peoplesoft software.

    This is nationwide. However, they are limiting users at offices based on backlog.

  3. Jim Says:

    SRM is a traitor.

  4. 'nuff already Says:

    jim…how is srm a traitor? Peoplesoft — let’s see — oh, yeah, they pay people with peoplesoft….something they apparently could not get done with PBOCS????

    And anyone willing to expose the total waste of taxpayer money being engaged in by the Census is not a traitor…they’re a hero!

    Let’s do the math. With most NRFU jobs ending after a mere 2-3 weeks it would seem the census overhired by at least half. Using the Director’s own number of 635,000, half would be 317,500. How much did it cost just to train those 317,500 people? Let’s do the math assuming four 8-hour days of training at an average cost of $12.00 per hour. That’s $384.00 per person. Multiplied by 317,500 the dollar amount swells to $121.9M. This figure does not include reimbursable mileage at $0.50 per mile, nor does it include the cost of renting a training facility (ours was held in a local restaurant) or training materials (two handbooks, a training manual, official census bag, some modest office supplies, forms, etc.). Nor does it include other secondary costs such as the time spent onboarding these folks, fingerprinting, running background checks, etc. I’m sure there are other ancillary costs.

    Well all is said is done the amount of taxpayer dollars wasted conducting the 2010 census will be staggering. It should not go unrecorded. Nor should it go unremembered come election day in November.

    And to those who think it is cool to refuse to participate…keep in mind it’s your money too that’s being wasted. Grow up!

  5. landp Says:

    The reason they over hired is to get the employement numbers up. The government is cooking the books

  6. Maiasaura Says:

    I ust got a call from the LCO asking for last week’s E-308C report. I had to look it up, because no one ever asked for them before. It’s the “Hours and Expenses Tracking Summary”, a kind of summary of my crew’s hours for the week. Why? I don’t know. all I know is they want it TODAY, and I will have to drive about 45 miles to pick it up from my CLA and deliver it to the LCO. The hours will have to come out of the 40 hours I’m allocated for the week. Last week I ran out of hours on Saturday.

  7. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @Maiasaura: You ought to get down on your knees and thank [insert name of deity here] that you had enough hours that you “ran out”. I turned in my last binder last week, and it looks like that’s all she wrote so far as my Census employment goes.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    CL and CLA in our LCO told their jobs may end any day!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    The public believes we are “stalking” them. People tell us they have mailed in their forms. Or, were visited by another enumerator a few days ago and gave the same info. Yet, here we are standing in their doorway asking the very same questions. Some people do not want us hounding them to death.

  10. CLA Dave Says:

    landp – I think the reason they overhired was the expectation of more people quitting. The hiring quota was probably set before unemployment got so bad.

  11. Census Enumerator Says:

    I was told last week of a possible Friday meeting at the end of this week. Sunday I was told we were all to make a list of the remaining EQs in our binders and turn it in Monday. Monday I was told there is a mandatory meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) and that only ‘some’ Enumerators would continue into June, and if you were ‘out of work’ you were done. We are, by the way, told to make 6 personal visits vs 3 as of two weeks ago.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    6 personal visits instead of 3. Refusals and difficult EQs are recycled back to other crew enumerators or a different crew.

  13. flcl Says:

    Today my FOS said there is some hope that PBOCS will be fixed on Thursday. For now, only one person in the LCO can be logged in at a time. We’ve been told not to terminate anyone. We’re about 75% done but of course very backlogged on data entry. I have asked directly if we’re expected to be done this week of next and my FOS said not that he’s heard but you never can be sure with the Senseless Bureau.

    PBOCS is from Harris Corp. DAPPS (payroll) is from Oracle (Peoplesoft).

  14. Anonymous Says:

    PBOCS is from Harris Corp.? Our hand-held computers (HTC) were also from Harris Corp.!

    CL and CLA in our LCO were told yesterday that their jobs could end any day.

    Is the end near? Will the Census cease to exist?

    Opinions anyone?

  15. CLA Dave Says:

    Harris Corp!
    Sloowly I turned …
    :)

  16. Harley Says:

    We are done about 3 hours ago.FOS told my CL that all work to be done and we got it done with 3 enumerators left in our group out of the 16 that started.Very stressfull the past 2 days.
    Met some great people and enjoyed my experience and the money!!

  17. Jay Says:

    Different experiences. Still lots of work throughout the state. yeah, some people getting cut, but not massive stand-downs. I’m guessing about 40-50% or more still on the streets.
    However, lots of calls about people sending in the mailer, or being visited constant times.
    PBocs is still a disaster. There are now three systems doing what was supposed to be the work of one. And they aren’t great. WHEN PBocs worked, it was good. However that wasn’t very often.

  18. Maiasaura Says:

    Yes, they over-hired. They expected to get people with an 8th grade education, who would want to work for about 20 hours a week. Instead they got people with Masters degrees and tremendous managerial experience who wanted to work 40+ hours a week.

  19. Maiasaura Says:

    his week many people will be let go for “no work available”. The bright side is, if you have managed to stay for the full 8-week term they put in your contract, you will most likely be able to collect unemployment. They don’t tell you that, but my research indicates that is true. Anyone know more about this?

  20. clerkofalltrades Says:

    Southern region. We are allowed 3 simultaneous users on PBOCS; most shipping functions have been moved to a DAPPS-like system. I’ve heard nothing suggesting PBOCS is gone for good. THey have nothing to replace it with, anyway.

  21. Payday Says:

    RCC: 2699 Kansas City

  22. Embarressed Says:

    Our 3 stations were jamming today! Think we hit an all time record! I am the relief person. If you need to sneeze or go potty, I take your place.

    Have my fingers crossed that all of you will take Memorial Day off. That way all of us lucky ducks on PBOCs in my LCO will be able to scan away nice and quick.

  23. Crew Leader Says:

    This is NOT a rumor. SRM is just trying to start one. He went fishing & all he caught was an old shoe!

    The Census Bureau has plenty of legitimate problems. We don’t need to create phantom ones.

  24. techy Says:

    “jim…how is srm a traitor? Peoplesoft — let’s see — oh, yeah, they pay people with peoplesoft….something they apparently could not get done with PBOCS????”

    You mean they couldn’t pay people with a system that was never designed to pay people?! (hint: Peoplesoft/DAPPS has ALWAYS been the payment program for employees. Not PBOCS)
    The main problem when it comes to field employees not getting paid is… field employees not turning in D-308s. Mainly Crew Leaders not meeting with their people daily. The late D-308 report (the one which shows 308′s which come in AFTER the pay period) always has hundreds, if not more, 308′s.

    “The reason they over hired is to get the employement numbers up. The government is cooking the books”

    Or because within the first two weeks of the operation a good 20% of the total number hired who are working quit and its easier to hire on the front end then to do emergency replacement training…

  25. BTK census worker Says:

    Techy thank you for a little sanity! Non Response will end soon so any time now you will be checking the last day worked on your 308s. and all you demented temp workers can go find another conspiracy to fixate on.

    POBOCS is the Census response to a complete and utter failure by Harris Corp (a private company) Who lied, mislead and was completely and totally incompetent. Next time hopefully the Census Bureau will conduct the census and not out source it to the private sector so we can get it right from the get go

  26. CLA Dave Says:

    They messed up my pay again, worse than before. Today’s deposit was less than half of what it should have been.

  27. techy Says:

    “They messed up my pay again, worse than before. Today’s deposit was less than half of what it should have been.”

    Again, talk with your Crew Leader and FOS. For an example, our office is supposed to process approx. 6300 308′s per week (pay period). That means we should get 900 from the field per day. The CLs and FOS’s are supposed to collect daily and send in person (or via courier) to the LCO. Per day.

    Guess how many have been sent in since the start of the new week (Sunday)?

    785. Out of 3600 that should be in the office, we have a little over 1/5th of them.

    So the next time you point fingers at the office, maybe check to see if the field is doing *its* job.

  28. CLA Dave Says:

    techy – CL told me the 308s were turned in to the courier in a timely manner. The payroll person at the RCC told me the computer system is working properly for them. Apparently, and for an unknown reason, the data entry people at the LCO did not get the hours/miles for May 13, 14, and 15 entered into the payroll system in time for the May 26 paycheck.

  29. field guy Says:

    UE QA is supposed to be officially over this week, but we’ve seen maybe 15-20% of the binders for our region. They are stacked up on the LCO floor, waiting for check-in and DQC assignments – which we’re told have to come from the potty box. On Monday it appeared the UE team would be released this week without any further work assignments, but now the message is that we will be kept on for now, but not given work for the time being. WTF?

    Other comments: If the Census releases you for lack of work, you can file for unemployment, however the amount of your benefits are based on earnings over a much longer period than 8 weeks. Get the facts from your own state unemployment agency. If you QUIT – generally you are not entitled to unemployment. Let the gov make the first move. Federal unemployment cases are handled a bit differently, so be prepared to learn the rules.

    Training sites, by policy, were not rented unless absolutely necessary. I’m not aware of a single instance of renting a training location in our region. Donations were easy to get when requested.

    By procedure, if an individual refuses to respond, they will likely be visited again by the original team, and might also get visited by QA and NRFU. If they responded to one, the next might not know it, as the first work probably didn’t get checked into PBOCS. All we can do is apologize. It seems odd that there is so much internal criticism against accomplishing the constitutional mandate to count everyone. Being counted is a good thing, regardless of how unaware the respondent may be about the benefits

  30. Anonymous Says:

    Field Guy is correct. I find respondents very testy at this time. They have mailed in their forms and do not want to participate again.

  31. donquixote Says:

    Haven’t all the LCO’s been provided with a PC-based “back up” system for PBOCS (in either Excel or Access)?

    It’s not all that hard to create and doesn’t crash or go down every day.

  32. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    Apparently our LCO (Oakland, 2716) has some kind of system, either apart from PBOCS or augmenting it in some way. Just spoke to my FOS, who told me that one of the reasons we were first in our region in productivity was because of this system that allowed the clerks to do their jobs, as opposed to other offices where PBOCS created processing bottlenecks.

    Or something like that. It’s still all pretty mysterious …

  33. Ex-IT Says:

    PBOCS is functioning better this week, but at a price:
    1. They are enforcing limits on LCO users. Typically 3 per LCO but Area Managers can apparently reallocate so some have more and others less. Previously, at least some (and maybe many) Regional and Area Managers were insisting that LCOMS ignore the limits. The problem is that with only 2 or 3 ops PBOOCs users per LCO, it may take many weeks to enter tha backlog of EQs from the field. meanwhile QA is twiddling thumbs waiting for the flood.

    2. They have suspended any PBOCS work on Update Enumerate – which has still not been completed. Only NRFU and NRFU/RI operations have been allowed. HQ barely seems to acknowledge the existence of the operation.

    3. Shipping of NRFU and NRFU/RI questionnaires is now being handled outside of PBOCS in a rather ugly DAPPS based program that seems to have been developed by a team of grumpy COBOL programmers from the late 1970′s. It is actually working to get stuff out of the offices, but lacks any validation that the questionnaires being shipped were properly checked in and processed. When we were using PBOCS, it caught a few that needed to go back to OPs either because the clerks did not handle it properly, or PBOCS hiccuped during check in.

    4. There is also a “Contingency” MS Access database that is used to keep track of questionnaires that have come back to the office and reviewed, but not yet checked into PBOCS. Unfortunately, it cannot really replace PBOCS and is only used to help the managers keep track of what is in the office or still in the field. With the huge stacks of boxes of questionnaires waiting for PBOCS, they needed some way of figuring out where everything is.

  34. Anonymous Says:

    Ex-IT, COBOL from the late 1970s!!! :)

  35. greyghost Says:

    I am going to be entering EQ’s into PBOCS. Can anyone give me the exact steps for logging into where this is done? I would like to memorize it.

  36. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @greyghost: Why are you asking that question here? This is a question for your supervisor. Makes you look like a troll, or worse.

  37. HermHollerith Says:

    Yet Another Enumerator,
    Considering how the 2010 Census has been managed,
    it is reasonable for LCO staff and Enumerators to ask questions about census procedures here on MTC.
    Those of us with an interest in the 2010 Census would like to read more details about the design and use of PBOCS and Excel and Access workarounds, both workarounds provided by Headquarters and any developed locally in the LCOs.

  38. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @HermHollerith: So you don’t see that as a potential security breach, discussing how to log into PBOCS here?

    Your handle implies that you know something about data processing, but I can only say that I’m glad you didn’t work as a consultant on the Census Bureau’s IT projects … or at least I hope you didn’t.

  39. In some LCO Says:

    @yetanother: It is no “security breach” to discuss steps to login to PBOCS since the steps are standard. All the security is in physical access and username and password.

    “Maiasaura Says:
    May 25th, 2010 at 9:48 pm
    Yes, they over-hired. They expected to get people with an 8th grade education, who would want to work for about 20 hours a week. Instead they got people with Masters degrees and tremendous managerial experience who wanted to work 40+ hours a week.”

    That is exactly the situation we have.

    Moreover, In terms of management experience and competence the organization is now upside down. The middle and lower management in LCOs is generally incompatible and characterized by learned laziness and the pool of enumerators and clerks generally has much much higher levels of skill, intelligence and work ethics.

    That’s nobody’s fault really given that the operation was planed years, before the recession could have been predicted, but it makes for some hilarious dynamics and irony with people with IQ’s of 90, who would never ever make it in the private sector, managing actual professionals.

  40. HermHollerith Says:

    Yet Another Enumerator, I did not ask how to login into PBOCS.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    Look into ICS Nett. They were the Government Contractor that provided the architecture of the whole half backed solution. Many of us on the inside have horror stories. Thing of things like two sets of project plans. One for the government with dates that where completely impossible and another set (more unofficial) that management had access to. When the Project Managers were hired in late 2009 many of them quit within 3-4 months. The lack of respect toward employees, the boiler room mentality, forcing employees to work in some cases 80-100 hours a week with no overtime. Yet they collected the overtime from the government.

    Shame on ICS Nett, I’m personally happy for the taxpayers who no longer have to flip the bill for these thiefs. I’m glad the Commerce Dept walked them out the door.