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.

Census Bureau official criticizes $1.6 billion savings

An anonymous Census Bureau official submitted the following to MyTwoCensus.com:

Last week Commerce Secretary Locke touted the Census Bureau’s $1.6 billion cost savings which they will return to the Treasury.  But I agree with congressman Issa that the touting of 1.6 billion returned to the Treasury is simply a “smoke and mirrors budget gimmickry that the American people have come to expect from the federal government.”

The bureau’s incompetency was saved by luck. There were no natural disasters and the recession produced a workforce that was otherwise unparalleled. About $800 million were in unspent funds set aside for hurricanes, floods and earthquakes which there were none. It is analogous to as if I lent you $10 and you returned it when it was not needed.

But the workforce productivity that beat expectations came from alleged poor management practices and labor and wage violations.
The most common complaint is the overtime it denied field, office staff and LCO managers. There were many office and field staff who worked many hours and never submitted time sheets for fear of termination in the worst employment market since the Great Depression.
The report also fails to mention that the first few operations (address canvassing, groups quarters validation) were overstaffed and thousands of employees were trained and got either no work or less than a week’s work.
The Census Bureau also entered into poor contracts such as the Harris handheld computers and PBOCS. And last but not least the supplies and paper contracts it entered into which produced enormous amounts of waste. There are entire rooms of unused office supplies (rubber bands, erasers, pencils, file folders) and preprinted manuals and administrative forms in huge quantities that are quietly being made to disappear. We’re not talking boxes, we are talking hundreds to thousands of boxes per LCO. The counter argument was any operation would of generated office waste but any census employee who works in the office who packed the shipping trucks knows exactly what I am talking about.
Robert Groves should have a press conference about what they are doing with the truckloads of unused supplies and whether they are returning those to the contractor for a refund. Perhaps the Inspector General should do an audit over the truckloads and pallets that are being quietly thrown out. In order to hide this waste some managers are threatening employees who document this with immediate termination.
I am optimistic that in the months after the census ends the truth will come out. In retrospect had the Census entered into better IT contracts, had there there not been problems with PBOCS, had they better estimated simply the amount of rubber bands every office would need they could have saved them themselves possibly at least another billion.

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15 Responses to “Census Bureau official criticizes $1.6 billion savings”

  1. AP Says:

    SRM, Ask a few basic questions when you get anon posts like this above. Challenge yourself to do more. We really want you to do investigative journalism and in a case like this above, I see nothing but allegations and links back to your stories with more allegations. Thank you for looking into problems, but we would really like you to look past the surface.

  2. JAG Says:

    You’re comment about the $800 million dollars is tired comment, dumb ass! If the census returned $1.6 billion and never specified that $800 million disaster contingency, the I would agree with you 100%. However, when then census is upfront about the source of this money from day one, what your gripe?

  3. Ekos Says:

    Wouldn’t poor labor management lead to lower overall effectiveness? Am I missing something here? Personally, I saw more production quality and efficiency because of several factors, but most noted are a) we were good at what we did, b) there were established methods for catching and correcting errors quickly and c) we got cooperation from the American public. If you didn’t have one of those, I would agree that it would have been harder to do our work and there would be a lot more press about it (here and otherwise). Say what you will, but if the 2010 operation were as bad as this and other dissenters make it sound, why didn’t Morse have a million hits per day on this site?

    Also, I complain about not getting overtime too, BUT it doesn’t mean that I am entitled to it. When I was hired for my job, I knew that I wouldn’t get it. I don’t like it, but it happens to be reality. Bottom line: I really don’t have a good reason to complain, other than to complain. It is how we humans muddle through the hard things in life.

  4. Solong Census Says:

    I think SRM summarized the overall problems with the 2010 Decennial Census
    quite well. This came from the numerous complaints and comments expressed on this blog as well as from the complaints filed with OBM, OIG, Census OCR and Congressional Offices. Although not everyone who logged on to this website posted comments, this website was viewed by many more people than is apparent. It was certainly viewed the the Cenus PR machine, spin masters and operatives. Many of them did post under assumed identities.

    Thank you SRM for providing a space where the truth wasn’t hidden, as raw as it sometimes was. I agree with Congressman Issa about the “smoke and mirrors”. The Census Bureau has never been upfront about money and, even Congress struggled to get the financial information from the Census Bureau, at first. The Census Bureau is deficient in integrity. For the nation’s keeper of data, it is sad to see and experience all of the lies, low quality and abrupted data collection and cover ups. This does not mean that the field staff were doing something wrong. I believe they worked hard,tried to do the best they could and are, in many cases, proud of their work. This is not about the field staff. Imagine how much more and thorough work the field staff could have done, saving the taxpayers more money, if there had been competent people at the top. Field Staff you did a great job! This is about the arrogance of Census managers, especially at the RCC, believing they can do and get away with anything they want to do because of the importance of the Census and because the employees are temporary. Their arrogance is appalling. If this website served only to poke at that arrogance and bring these managers down a notch by showing them they can’t do and get away with whatever they want, this website was well worth it.

  5. Jockamofeenahnay Says:

    Steven, did your uncle write this…I mean your cousim?

  6. ali barnett Says:

    For the record:

    “could have” not “could of”

    they could of saved them themselves possibly at least another billion.

  7. anonymous Says:

    Good article, Stephen.

    The Census Bureau was able to “save and return” money because they did not perform an accurate count. They cut corners, short-changed information in every operation – especially towards the end. Paperwork was lost, misplaced, and shredded/discarded. THE CENSUS COUNT IS NOT ACCURATE!

  8. Mary Says:

    You have a right to your own opinions, but you don’t have a right to your own facts.

  9. anonymous Says:

    Stephen, I look forward to buying/reading your book. When will it be published?

  10. GS-X Says:

    anonymous, consider if you have info to contribute to Stephen’s forthcoming book.
    If you have not already, write a story about the “lost, misplaced and shredded/discarded documents” and send it
    to Stephen.
    Of course, the census is not accurate. More important, is the census accurate enough?

  11. nemo Says:

    Flat statement:

    I worked no time for LCO 2239 for which I was not paid. Nor was I asked to.

    A non competent OOS often did, but if she had spent less time gossiping with her superiors she would not have needed to work unpaid over time.

  12. LCO-Doh! Says:

    I attended the regional meeting and found that certain other area employees did recieve comp time pay, were our LCO was denied any. One employee told me she was going to recieve 160 hours of comp time, paid.

    We worked countless hours and got nothing for the amount of extra time we had to work.

    I was told this was based on the Area Manager, another said they recieved a bonus for little to no paid comp time.

    All I can say is we got screwed, but I needed a job and will never forget how MY GOVERNMENT treated us.

  13. Enumerate this Says:

    Got a single letter-size sheet of paper in the mail today from the LCO, a photocopied memo from the RCC thanking everyone for their work. It came in a giant manila envelope with $1.05 postage. The memo was supposed to accompany my SF-50, which came a few days ago — another single letter-size sheet of paper mailed in a giant manila envelope for $1.05.

    If I didn’t know better, I’d think the survivors at the LCO are trying to string things out by mailing each sheet of paper out separately.

  14. Enumerate this Says:

    It goes without saying that both documents could have and should have been e-mailed. I also work for Pearson, the textbook publisher and K-12 test grading conglomerate. Like the Census, Pearson has big waves of white collar temporary labor come and go as business needs dictate. But at Pearson, 100 percent of HR paperwork is online. Pay stubs come as .pdfs.

    Of course, the Census’s love for one-size-fits-all solutions means that 100 percent of HR functions are carried out on paper because 10 percent of the workforce doesn’t have easy e-mail access or lives in the Aleutians.

  15. Michael Fermanich Says:

    Stephen; You rule with your communications and investigations. I look forward to seeing your face before the Senate Sub-Committee on Accountability of the United States Census wasting tax dollars period. I forgive my crew leader for her arrogance and maybe some day she will say she was really sorry for her communications. Likewise alot of people were wronged and that is not professional. There are some government operations that show professionalism via people skills!(sorry about the via but it is my style)