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.

Posts Tagged ‘GAO’

Detroit News: Bribery probe targets former U.S. Census official (Dwight Dean)

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Since June 1, 2010, I have reported about problems in the Detroit office of the US Census Bureau involving Dwight Dean, who was booted from his once-stable perch in the Census Bureau hierarchy in August 2010. Today, I give a hearty thank you to Robert Snell and the Detroit News who have reported that the “former top-ranking U.S. Census Bureau official in Michigan and two other states is being investigated for allegedly accepting bribes and awarding an $857,000 no-bid contract.” MyTwoCensus.com urges federal, state, and local investigators to also investigate the many other Dwight Dean cronies who were very likely conspirators in his activities. Furthermore, as other MyTwoCensus.com pieces demonstrate, at the Detroit office of the Census Bureau, it oftentimes appeared like the inmates were running the asylum.

(Click here for a list of MyTwoCensus pieces involving the Detroit office that name many of the individuals I am referring to.)

Here’s the Detroit News piece (in full HERE):

A search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday in federal court indicates that in November 2010 a grand jury was investigating Plymouth resident Dwight Dean. He was the highest-ranking Census official in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia until he was abruptly, and inexplicably, replaced in August 2010. No criminal charges have been filed.

This investigation involves a federal official in Detroit, which has been the focus of several ongoing corruption investigations involving City Hall and two Detroit pension funds.

Federal investigators did not put a value on the alleged bribes, which involve dinners at expensive restaurants and what appear to be free tickets to the North American International Auto Show charity preview.

The Detroit businessman named in the search warrant, who admitted giving Dean auto show tickets and paying for dinners, denied doing anything wrong.

“That’s not bribery,” Motor City International President Louis James told The News. “That’s a business meeting.”

Dean had served as Census regional director since 1987 and oversaw a crucial headcount last year that ended with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing vowing to appeal figures that showed a steep population drop. The census is used to determine the amount of federal funding cities receive.

Dean, 64, did not return phone messages seeking comment Wednesday.

The search warrants were executed a year ago and the current status of the investigation was unclear Wednesday.

There is no indication the allegations affected the 2010 census count.

“Over 39,000 people hired locally in the Detroit region worked on the 2010 census. At all times, we conducted extensive quality assessments of operations and census results,” Census Bureau spokesman Michael Cook said.”The assessments of the Detroit region are consistent and within the norms of what we found nationally.”

Federal agents raided Dean’s offices in Detroit one year ago, searching for evidence he accepted gifts, loans or money between August 2008 and August 2010, according to the search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday.

 

2010 Census oversight team wins award

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The Commerce Department Inspector General has been recognized for an award by the professional organization that unites the Inspector Generals of all government agencies…Here’s the brief from Ed O’Keefe:

The Commerce Department’s 2010 Census Oversight Team will be honored for “exemplary service” for a recurring series of reports on the planning, coordination, and execution of the largest decennial census in American history. (Example: Census workers who did no work were paid.)

Both the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office both did some excellent work in the past few years by shedding light on major inefficiencies related to the 2010 Census and doing their best to correct many debacles.

The Mysteries of CCM (Census Coverage Management)

Friday, August 6th, 2010

There are many mysteries surrounding Census Coverage Management. (Some are discussed here in this Powerpoint presentation.) The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published some critiques/suggestions for CCM back in April, but it is unknown if these recommendations have been implemented. Today, out of the blue, I received some updates to my FOIA request from February that sought to examine correspondences between various officials. (Presumably, this sudden appearance of information had something to do with the fallout of Mr. Jost’s mention of this request the other day in the comments section of this blog.)  If you start at page 32, you will get to read quite a bit of information about Census Coverage Management, a most important 2010 Census operation. Here’s the document:

FOIA response on 8-5-10

With latest jobs report, the Census Bureau’s failures to report training hours and part-time jobs come to light

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

For most of you, this is old news by now, but I hesitated to report it because it would probably just make you more angry. It recently came out that most of America’s new jobs are temporary Census Bureau positions that will soon end, which is dismal news for the economy. As MyTwoCensus.com observed, some people on the right are outraged by what they report as false job statistics since Census Bureau employees have been hired and let go (for various reasons) and then re-hired to work for other 2010 Census operations down the road.

FoxNews published reports from Commerce Department and Bureau of Labor Statistics spokespersons:

Commerce Department spokesman Nick Kimball:

“The Census Bureau — like all other employers — reports the number of individuals on its payroll for the specific week the Labor Department uses as a point of reference for measuring the nation’s level of This is not a tally of positions filled during the past month — instead, it is the number of actual individual human beings who received paychecks that week. That number can then be compared to the reports from previous months to understand the changing jobs environment over time.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics spokeswoman Stacey Standish:

“Each month the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Current Employment Statistics (CES) program publishes the employment levels for total nonfarm and component industries. Establishments, including the Census Bureau, are asked to report the total number of workers on their payroll. That is, the establishment is asked to report the total number of employees who worked or received pay for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. The CES program does not ask establishments to report the number of new hires or created, or the number of persons who were laid off.”

Shelly Lowe of the Census Bureau’s public information office commented on a MyTwoCensus post:

First, the Census Bureau does not hire, then fire, and then rehire anyone. Any employee who is fired is fired for cause. We train and hire temporary workers for various operations, most significantly Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) to complete work assignments. When the work is complete, the temporary worker goes into an inactive status. They may be re-activated if there is more work to do, or for another subsequent operation. At no time do we count a re-activation from non-working status as a ?rehire.?

The article goes on to state: “Labor doesn’t check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month.

This is simply inaccurate. The Census Bureau reports to the Department of Labor and on our public website the number of people paid for work during a given week. We do not report the number of jobs. The Census Bureau reports the total number of unduplicated temporary 2010 workers that earned any pay during a specific weekly pay period. Temporary workers earning any pay during the week are counted only once. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measures changes in employment levels — not the actual level itself — and looks only at the week which includes the 12th day of the month. It is simply not possible for Census to engage in the manipulation of data to artificially inflate the employment report of the BLS in the manner alleged by this news column.

So now we see that the number of people on the payroll each week is the number of people who are reported to the government. However, as we know from previous posts and reports by the Commerce Department Inspector General and Government Accountability Office, there are tons and tons of Census Bureau employees who are “trained” each week but never actually work. Furthermore, there are thousands of Census Bureau employees who are only working part-time. Many workers have twenty hours to work per week, tops. These  figures are not accounted for in the Census Bureau’s tally, which are further compounded by the Census Bureau’s frequent IT malfunctions making it such that Census Bureau employees who are on the clock are merely sitting around and waiting for assignments to come through.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: For the sake of employees, tell the truth about how long NRFU operations will last

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received confidential reports from multiple Census Bureau officials that non-response follow-up operations in many parts of the country are winding down. By law, the Census Bureau can only contact non-responders three times in person and three times by phone — even though MyTwoCensus is currently investigating whether additional illegal contacts are taking place.

Because of the Census Bureau’s computer failures, the 2010 Census may be coming in over-budget (apparently $15 billion wasn’t enough cash…). Since the Census Bureau doesn’t want to take yet another scolding from the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, they may try to abruptly end the 2010 headcount ASAP.

With half a million workers on the streets during this large-scale operation, there is significant amounts of confusion about how long jobs will last. Lying to Census Bureau employees, who very well may lose their jobs within the next one or two weeks (by the end of May) is not the answer. Yes, these jobs are temporary, but working through the end of July meant an additional two months of security and stability for many individuals employed by the Census Bureau who may have quit lower paying jobs to take on these positions. Additionally, it seems to be that thousands of individuals went off unemployment to take their Census Bureau jobs. These people should not have been told that they would have 6-8 weeks of work if they really only have 4 weeks of work.

Census Bureau Official: The Worst Local Census Office In the Nation

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The following piece comes from an anonymous Census Bureau official in New York whose identity has been verified but will remain protected by MyTwoCensus.com. This work below does not necessarily represent the views of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com:

From the outside our LCO looks great. It sits in a high end commercial office building with beautiful views of Park Avenue and the Grand Central Terminal. But on the inside the office is the prime example of the appalling waste, lack of accountability, sabotage and finger pointing that has become widespread here at the 2010 Census.

Our LCO contains the upscale doorman buildings of the East Side, the multi-million dollar condos in Union Square and the Lower East Side, Fifth Avenue retail stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman and famous restaurants such as Tavern on the Green and Smith & Wollensky. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment is upwards of three thousand dollars a month. For months, numerous employees warned everyone the demography of the residents and the high real estate prices was going to be a problem finding applicants for $18.75 an hour and free training space. The recruiting and partnership assistants had trouble finding partners that would donate space that we could use five days a week for eight hours a day. The LCOM made clerks cold call high end banquet halls, and conference rooms in private office buildings but most of them refused because in such a recession these businesses could be generating revenue instead of donating their space. Some spaces though were nice enough to say that if we would be willing to offset some of their custodial, security costs or even the cost for toilet paper they would offer us the space. But the Census Bureau was adamant about not paying a single cent for space.

The other problem was recruiting enough applicants. The office clerk rate of $14.25 and field employee rate of $18.75 an hour was chump change for what is considered one of the highest real estate prices in the country. Most of the people who take a job for these pay rates are students, public housing or subsidized housing residents or retirees. For this very reason we were ranked last in the nation when it came to recruiting enough applicants to do the census.

To no one’s surprise since recruiting numbers were not being met the career census employees at regional census center (RCC) and headquarters pointed fingers, blamed the local census office managers and bring in outsiders. They brought in regional technicians and other recruiting assistants from Queens to show us how to plaster and flier neighborhoods with posters. Nevertheless they didn’t even make a dent in the recruiting numbers. Looking for someone to blame the RCC fired the recruiting manager and asked another one to take over. When the second one refused to work with the LCOM, the solution was fire her too. Then they offered it to a Westchester manager who declined also. (smart move) And the regional technician from Queens spent a week there before he was fed up. Are you starting to notice a trend? You know there is a problem when people would rather be fired than work with the LCOM.

The employees refused to work with the LCOM because she was condescending, oftentimes publicly humiliating and sabotaging other managers from getting their job done. Most of all, the LCOM had it out for the AMQA. She [LCOM] diverted a strong OOS from quality assurance to recruiting and told recruiting assistants to refrain from finding training sites and questionnaire assistance centers (QACs). When the area manager sent partnership assistants to help look for additional QAC sites the LCOM diverted them also. Then they sent a regional technician to help her. He mapped the geographic location of all the QAC sites and figured out the hours they would be most effective. Then he coordinated some recruiting assistants to help telling them exactly where he needed QACs and what hours he needed them. She threw away the work and tried to get the regional technician fired.

At the climax, when the LCOM resigned her going away party featured a clerk who impersonated her in a wig and stormed the lobby like a drama scene from a reality television show. After the LCOM left, an RCC employee became the acting LCOM. Like other RCC employees he offered little constructive help but sitting at his computer falling asleep or basically hovering, standing over, watching as temporary hourly employees slave away at processing work on an antiquated system that does not work.

When it came time to hire enumerators for non response follow-up our office still didn’t have enough training spaces but told to select applicants anyways. Despite being the worst LCO in the country the office managed to select almost 2,000 applicants, hiring a negligible number of non-citizens and those who scored below 70 from an applicant pool of about 5,000. (the original applicant testing goal was over 12,000 applicants) Instead of finally compromising and paying for much needed space RCC asked the LCO managers to create a schedule to take advantage of every single seat in a classroom, moving and splitting crews of enumerators from one training site to another each day. A great idea from the outlook; but when you try to implement this it can be a logistical nightmare. We promised jobs to thousands of applicants but couldn’t fit them into training space so all this week we fielded phone calls from thousands of irate applicants who were desperate for work or enumerators who don’t even know where and when their next day of training is. While the office is fielding phone calls headquarters is making sure we key enough hires in the system. The office resorted to training their employees in the hallway of a high end commercial Park Avenue South office. The managers have to work from morning to midnight, sometimes through the night and everyday there are employees who basically break down and burst into tears in the office. The Census Bureau could of saved themselves money simply by pay their partners a stipend to offset custodial or security fees or even the toilet paper than pay the wages and overtime for the entire office which is probably in the tens of thousands.

Another example of government waste at its finest is how they bring in huge cubic dump containers to throw out entire storerooms of materials for the group quarters enumeration, recruiting brochures, and questionnaires. I ask myself if it was worth firing our AMQA over lack of Questionnaire Assistance Center sites when entire cubic containers of be counted census forms were just thrown out? In a few weeks during the non-response follow up operation we have to enumerate all the housing units in entire high rise apartment buildings in Manhattan because no one received census forms. This is simply because headquarters and RCC rushed and told people to work faster last year. If New York City is missing entire high rise apartment buildings imagine how many single family homes are missing across America. The joke of the office is if things don’t work headquarters will fly in people who will come in take over and magically “finish the job”. This is simply why places like New York City get undercounted.

So when the newspaper reporters are standing outside our office demanding interviews about why the office won’t respond to applicants request about job training. Why don’t they ask the RCC and headquarters? From the first look you can blame the temporary local census office but the real blame falls onto the RCC and headquarters who evaluate purely on numbers with little regard to the demography and real estate costs of one of the most expensive neighborhoods in America. The New York East 2230 office is the prime example of career level census managers who have tunnel vision. These people are former statisticians, mathematicians and geographers who are great at quantitative analysis but have little management experience and strategy.

If this LCO works just like any other office in terms of the waste it shows what must be happening in 494 offices across the nation every day. The Census Bureau MO “when things don’t work throw more money, resources and people at it.” This is why the census costs 15 billion dollars. The Census needs someone with real management experience and who is a real visionary. The employees at regional census center and headquarters should be ashamed of themselves. And to think the inspector general’s office was here just weeks ago makes it even more appalling. You can be sure I’ll be writing the congressional subcommittee about this.

Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post analyzes yesterday’s report from the Inspector General

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Thanks to Ed for  the following:

Frequent glitches in the computer system built to manage the 2010 Census could jeopardize its accuracy and drive up costs beyond its $15 billion price tag, according to a new watchdog report.

The findings by the Commerce Department’s inspector general come as roughly 600,000 census takers fan out nationwide to visit about 48 million addresses where nobody mailed back a census form.

The quarterly progress report found that problems persist with the agency’s paper-based operations-control system, a computer program developed to manage data collected by census takers. Several local Census Bureau offices are experiencing outages of several hours to entire days, the report said.

Those delays contributed to $1.6 million in clerical overtime costs in the first quarter, and the cost will probably rise in the next two months as census takers complete their work, the report said.

Because of computer delays, local census offices also could misplace completed paper questionnaires that are waiting to be processed.

“Questionnaires can be misplaced, for example, by storing them with questionnaires that have already been checked in,” the report said. If those forms are not processed, “the persons identified in the questionnaires may not be counted.”

The report reinforces concerns raised last week by the Government Accountability Office during a congressional hearing on census operations.

The Census Bureau developed the computer system in 2008 after scrapping plans to use handheld computers built for the agency. The decision left little time to develop the software, and officials have since said the system probably poses the most risk to census operations.

“As we have publicly disclosed to Congress, our oversight agencies and the press, the operational control system is not optimal, and remains a risk,” Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said in an e-mail. “However we do not foresee cost overruns of the type speculated upon in this report.”

Census Director Robert M. Groves has vowed to keep census operations under budget in hopes of returning funds to the Treasury. But he acknowledged potential operational issues this week in a blog post written to his 600,000 new hires.

“Nothing as large as the decennial census can be trouble-free,” Groves said. “Despite the years of development, things will go wrong.”

Inspector General’s quarterly report on the 2010 Census now available

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Here it is: http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/2010/OIG-19791-4.pdf

I’m currently reading through it…

Page 19: “The 2010 Census is currently estimated to cost approximately $14.7 billion, reflecting an increase of $3.2 billion over the last 2 years.”

Inspector General’s report on the 2010 Census to be released later today…Here’s a sneak peak from the AP

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

The Commerce Department Inspector General’s report that will soon be publicly available may shed some light on major cost overruns at the Census Bureau. The AP obtained a copy on Wednesday, and here’s what they said about it:

WASHINGTON — A new audit questions whether the 2010 census can stick to its $15 billion budget because of computer problems that are forcing substantial overtime work.

The report from the Commerce Department inspector general’s office was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. It says glitches with the computer system used to manage the door-to-door count caused a 40-hour backlog of work over two weeks.

The report notes that the Census Bureau has already notched more than $1.6 million in overtime costs, and says continuing shutdowns could put the count’s accuracy at risk if census data can’t be put into the system immediately.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves says he believes the agency will stay within its budget.

Dr. Groves calls a software change from two years ago a “late change” in operations strategy. MyTwoCensus says this is nonsense.

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Earlier today, the Associated Press released a short article (below) that discusses the Census Bureau’s repeated paper-based operations control system failures. In response to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves’ comment that, “the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system” I can simply point to a response I just received from Michael Cook, Chief of the Decennial Media Relations Branch at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. Cook wrote me, “The change to a paper-based NRFU operation ordered two years ago by then-Commerce Secretary Gutierrez, required us to develop PBOCS in a compressed time-frame.” Now, this makes no sense. TWO YEARS IS NOT A COMPRESSED TIME FRAME. It is a ridiculously long amount of time to use engineers to tweak and test a system to make it perfect. Once again, the Census Bureau’s IT failures are pathetic and unaccepptable in the year 2010.

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Government Accountability Office says a computer system needed to finish the 2010 census may not be up to the job.

GAO Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff said Friday before a congressional hearing in Los Angeles that the Paper Based Operations Control System hasn’t demonstrated the ability to meet peak requirements of the census as it seeks to count residents who did not return forms by mail.

Census Director Robert Groves says in a statement that the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system.

He says the system has worked well so far but that the agency is not out of the woods yet.

The GAO says the Census Bureau is otherwise well-positioned to finish the door-to-door count, which begins Saturday.

Census Bureau IT problems remain unresolved

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Finally, a source other than MyTwoCensus.com has noticed and reported on the multitude of IT failures at the Census Bureau. H/t to Edwin Mora of CNSNews.com for the following piece…but hopefully the mainstream media — not just Conservative media outlets like CNSNews — will start to address these problems:

Census Still Struggling With IT Problems That May Affect Count’s Accuracy
Friday, April 30, 2010
By Edwin Mora


Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves. (AP Photo/U of Mich.,Paul Jaronski)
(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Census Bureau is still having problems with its computer system that handles the data for households that did not return a census form. However, the Census Bureau director said the system has successfully printed out the assignments for the enumerators who will conduct in-person interviews with households that did not mail in their forms.

“We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper-based operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “It worked.”

The Census director made the comments at a press briefing on the Census participation rate, which took place at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday.

Groves said the Bureau is not fond of its paper-based operation control system (PBOCS), which is used to manage the non-response follow-up (NRFU). The NRFU, set to begin May 1, is the Census’ largest operation and involves census workers personally interviewing millions of people nationwide who did not respond to the mailed Census questionnaire.

“Slightly more than 72 percent of U.S. households believed to be occupied mailed back their 2010 Census forms, the same rate that was achieved in 2000,” the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Apr. 28.

“Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far,” said Groves.

“We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday,” he added. “So we’re proceeding.”

According to a Mar. 25 Government Accountability Office report entitled, “Data Collection is Under Way, But Reliability of Key Information Technology Systems Remains a Risk,” the Census Bureau was experiencing problems with two IT systems, one of which is the paper-based operation control system that Groves mentioned during the press conference.

The GAO reported last February that “key IT systems — most notably an automated system used to manage field data collection known as the Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) and a personnel and payroll processing system called the Decennial Applicant Personnel and Payroll System (DAPPS) — were experiencing significant performance issues.”

On Thursday, Robert Goldenkoff, the director of strategic issues for the GAO and author of the March 25 GAO report on the IT problems affecting the Census, told CNSNews.com:  “The [paper based] operational control system used to manage the field follow-up operation was still having stability issues last week; the Census Bureau continues to work on it.”

On Mar. 25, Judith Gordon, the principal assistant inspector general for Audit and Evaluation at the Department of Commerce, which runs the Census Bureau, testified about the IT problems affecting the Census before Congress, saying that the Census’ decennial count’s accuracy was “at risk” because of IT issues.

“IT problems place the efficiency and accuracy of Non-Response Follow-Up at risk and final decennial costs remain uncertain,” Gordon told lawmakers, and as CNSNews.com reported. Gordon had testified before a subcommittee on the Census of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In the same Mar. 25 GAO report, Goldenkoff revealed that “an estimated 50 million housing units out of a mail-out universe of about 120 million” would be non-respondents and would require an in-person follow-up to count. The operating budget for the NRFU is $2.7 billion.

Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution calls for a decennial enumeration (census) of the American people to be used for allocating U.S. House seats among the states.

Michael Steele and the GOP – Are you kidding me? Republicans continue ‘census mailings’ despite law

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Michael Steele and the national GOP are a bunch of ignorant individuals who are completely out of touch with their party’s mainstream. Even after Congress showed strong bipartisan support for a measure to ban deceptive census mailings (now a law signed by President Obama), these idiots continue to act illegally — and they are openly defending their actions. They should be prosecuted. Eric Holder and the Justice Department, I hope you’re reading this. H/t to Ed O’Keefe for the following…and I hope that Jon Stewart creates a segment mocking this BS on The Daily Show in the near future:

The Republican National Committee believes that a new round of mailings which use the word “Census” does not violate a new law banning such deliveries.

Democrats and news organizations in Nebraska, Utah and Washington state have called out the new Republican mailings as illegal and detrimental to 2010 Census efforts.

The mailings appear to violate a law signed by President Obama on April 7 that passed with bipartisan support in both chambers. The law requires mailings with an envelope marked “Census” to state clearly the sender’s return address and provide a disclaimer that the mailing is not from the federal government.

But the RNC will keep sending such mailings regardless of the new law, according to committee spokesman Doug Heye.

“In reviewing the new law, our legal department determined such mailings are not covered. Therefore, they will continue,” Heye said in an e-mail. He would not elaborate on the legal determination.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who authored the bill, sounded incensed.

“What is with these guys?” she said in a statement. “Congress passes a law in record time, with unanimous bipartisan support in both houses, to reduce confusion about the real Census. But there they go again, trying to make a partisan buck on the Census!”

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been asked by Nebraska Democrats to weigh in on the matter. Under the old law, postal inspectors deemed such mailings legal.

MyTwoCensus files Freedom of Information Act request to better understand Census Bureau tech failures

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting the records of all technical and information technology glitches, failures, and errors that involved the Census Bureau and its technology systems from January 1, 2006 through the present. This includes everything from e-mail systems going down to fingerprint scanners not working properly to the recent paper-based operational control system failure. Most important to me are items pertaining to the 2010 Census. I would appreciate if you started with the most recent failures and worked your way back. These should include every piece of technology that the Census Bureau uses at field offices as well as at headquarters in Suitland.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com, governingpeople.com, and other publications.  Since this is a non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is “urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request deserves your prompt attention.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

Anonymous Census Bureau Official: Major Nation-wide IT FAILURE at the Census Bueau

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The following piece comes to us from a Census Bureau official from the Mid-West region who has requested anonymity but has had her identity verified by MyTwoCensus.com. Her discussion of a major week-long IT systems failure has effected every Census Bureau office across the country and demonstrates how disgraceful operations are being handled (and subsequently covered up, as MyTwoCensus has requested information about this failure numerous times yet has not received any responses from the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office):

I have a problem in my local census office. The problem is 493 of those offices across the nation are having the same exact problem. You see, in November and December 2009 when I first started at the Census Bureau, one of my first assignments was assisting in a system load test known as the Decennial Application Load Test (or DALT for short). DALT simulated the conditions of every census office employee logging on at the same time across the nation and what would happen. This was my first taste of our federal tax dollars hard at work. As is typical of any large scale government program the whole system went kaput; users couldn’t log-on and applications crashed.

The Bureau’s contingency plan was to limit users and ask offices to spread out their staffing. We started to run an evening shift which meant paying night differential (an additional 10% pay) to our night employees.  One application of concern was PBOCS the Paper Based Operational Control System that was unveiled in January 2010 to complete the rest of their field operations. The system was developed after the Census decided to nix the Harris Corporation as their contractor. The PBOCS system was used to check out assignments into the field, make assignments to enumerators, check work into the office after completion and check out for shipping. In February 2009 after the two big snowstorms that hit Washington DC the same thing happened. The Bureau’s contingency plan for PBOCS was to limit users to four per local census office and remove functionality they didn’t deem was mandatory.

In the last few weeks we are experiencing many more problems as we near non-response followup the most massive operation of the decennial census. Some of PBOCS problems include but are not limited to:
* individual census reports (ICRS) from group quarters enumeration that PBOCS claims are missing for shipment.
* daily progress reports that are outdated or showing the wrong numbers
* numerous system crashes where work is lost or has to be rescanned
* wrong or missing work being selected for reinterview

At the beginning when these problems started, the RCC pointed fingers at the local census offices accusing them of not using the system or processing the work properly. However when several offices reported the same issues the blame then shifted to the software.

To further complicate things is the divide that also occurs between the local census office employees and the the regional census center and headquarters staff. The headquarters and regional census center staff are mostly career employees. The local census office employees are temporary Schedule A hourly employees. Although both are referencing the same procedures in the same manuals the local census office employees are the ones who are doing the grunt work (the enlisted men per say). The RCC and headquarters staff (the commissioned officers) manage and oversee but do not realize the difficulties and nuances because they are not out there getting their hands dirty.

The LCO employees are finding that the PBOCS system actually will not update the report numbers or sometimes show the wrong numbers. The RCC and headquarters are lead to believe if the work doesn’t show in the system as completed then it is not completed. However when the reports don’t show the quotas are being met the career census employees usually get on the phone to threaten the temporary employees and even sometimes terminating their employment.

This weekend is the third weekend PBOCS has gone offline. On Wednesday April 14 it was announced PBOCS was to go down at 8pm (actually went down about 5pm) and will not be back up until Monday morning April 19th. We are somewhat relieved to hear through the grapevine that the RCC and headquarters will be more lenient and readjust their production goals for the entire nation. However I think that much of the intimidation and harassment will occur again so that the career census employees can cover their asses and recover any of the money they were probably paying in overtime for programmers to fix this crap piece of software. This is all the while they tell the temporary employees at the LCO that overtime will be strictly prohibited.

The career employees at RCC and headquarters hold the temporary LCO employees accountable for mistakes they [RCC and headquarters] made in the ten years they had to prepare since the last decennial. But who is held accountable at the highest levels when a multi-billion dollar piece of software doesn’t work and they constantly have to fix it? I hope the Inspector General and my congressmen are reading this because PBOCS is government waste at its finest. How ironic it is happening in the nearing days of the largest operation of the decennial census.

Another Census Oversight Issue…

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES: Mar. 23, 2010

CONTACT:

Emily Spain, Carper, 202-224-2441

Jon Houston, Maloney, 202-225-7944

Gregg Bortz, Dent, 610-861-9734

Sens. Carper, Coburn & Reps. Maloney, Dent to introduce bipartisan Census reform bill

WASHINGTON (Mar. 23, 2010) – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) will hold a press conference Thursday, March 25 at the House Triangle by the U.S. Capitol (rain room TBA) at 11:30 a.m. to announce introduction of the “Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act.”

This bipartisan bill is crafted to improve Census management challenges which arise from the fact the Census operates on a constitutionally mandated ten-year cycle while Presidential administrations which oversee management of the Census operate on a four-year cycle. The bill strengthens Congressional oversight of the Census to help prevent operational problems that have emerged on the eve of the censuses in 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010, in part from a lack of steady leadership and management due to changes in Presidential administrations.

The bill is timed for consideration just as the country is in the midst of returning their current census forms– drawing attention to the fact that just over two years ago, there were serious last-minute census design changes which threatened a successful, cost-efficient 2010 Census, in part from a lack of steady leadership and management due to changes in Presidential administrations.

WHAT:

Introduction of the Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act

WHO:

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) Chair, Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chair, Joint Economic Committee

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)

Also attending, two former Census Bureau Directors under both D and R Administrations:

Vincent P. Barabba, (Ford, 1973-1976; Carter, 1979-1981)

Martha Farnsworth Riche, (pronounced “Rich-y”) (Clinton, 1994-1998)

WHEN:

Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:30 AM.

WHERE:

Outdoors at the House Triangle by the U.S. Capitol (Rain Room TBA)

Notes From The Field: A Story Of Waste At The Census Bureau

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

UPDATE: Click on these documents (HERE and HERE) to view examples of just how much waste there is. We are also hoping that Census Bureau employees can send us photos and other documentation of entire warehouses full of materials being destroyed.

The following story was written exclusively for MyTwoCensus.com by an anonymous upper-level local Census Bureau official in California. Maybe Tony Soprano should have won himself a Census Bureau contract, because it seems like waste management is an extremely lucrative business. Enjoy this:

There have been many articles about bad technology and over-hiring of staff at the Census Bureau which has wasted millions of our taxpayer’s dollars. The bright side is that these jobs are providing a stimulus to our economy. However so far no one has spoken about the paper /printing waste at the Census Bureau which is the most visible part especially as a local census office employee.  From my initial estimates this waste could top at least in the millions and maybe a billion dollars.

There are many forms of waste including: single sided printers, employee manuals on high quality paper, thousands of administrative forms and full color recruiting brochures which are printed and never used. Let us also not forget the promotional posters which partnership is scrambling to get rid of because after the questionnaires go out in two weeks they play a little role except encouraging people to mail it back. First, they are the high speed printers which default to print singled sided because we were told they were set that way for map printing. However if we try to default the printers to double sided for our other print jobs we are violating the contractor’s Harris Corporation warranty agreement. Add to that managers and clerks who each feel the need to print their own copy, and make copies of copies (single sided of course) and the occasional office idiot who does not check his printer settings before printing the two thousand page report single sided and we go through entire reams of paper in a day.

Then there are the thousands of manuals and administrative forms on high quality paper we receive in our shipments. It would be a different story if the thousands of manuals were printed on 100% recycled newsprint, like the test prep books in the bookstore but they are not. Maybe I’d feel less guilty if the administrative forms we receive were being used, but they are not used. After each operation our manager receives a headquarters memo (attached) that authorizes them to throw out hundreds of boxes of administrative forms and manuals that were never used. And it doesn’t end there. The national processing center print millions upon millions of forms only to find out there is either an error or an update is needed making the previous editions garbage. We will receive a memo to destroy the old ones. Only to get another pallet of them and sometimes it’s the same version. Add to that the overestimated workloads we still have hundred of boxes of group quarters validation questionnaires and full color recruiting brochures left (and recruiting ends this month)

After address canvassing which was a computer based operation we threw away hundreds of manuals but very little administrative forms. However after group quarters validation, the first paper based operation and the first wave of recruiting ended we threw away hundreds of blank administrative forms and outdated recruiting brochures. Since our local census office was in a building that didn’t recycle we put them in the shredding bin. But the bin filled up very quickly and we were told to just bag them in black garbage bags and dispose of them since they contain no sensitive information. It took us weeks of throwing out manuals, forms everyday before we were able to rid ourselves of it.

One of the supervisors summarized it well when she said: “They treat all the employees like crap…tell everyone they are not willing to pay a cent of overtime and that they have to do their job in under 40 hours otherwise their work will be given to someone else or they will be terminated.” But then they spend your hard earned taxpayer’s dollars to print full color glossy recruiting brochures by the thousands, truck them across the country, have them sit idle in a storeroom only to throw them out a few months later.

My TwoCensus should submit a FOIA request to expose this waste because this is frankly appalling. Among the questions the watchdog group should ask is:

What is the total printing cost and amount of paper for the 2010 census broken down by: administrative forms, partnership posters, employee training manuals, census forms?

How much waste has Shred-It, the national contractor for destroying sensitive information, received from the offices and how much revenue is being generated?

Due to the overestimated workloads and overrecruiting exactly how much extra money went to printing these unused manuals, forms and promotional materials?

How much money is Harris Corporation making by contracting high speed printers and computer equipment which are running up paper, toner and employee costs?

How much money could of been saved if they printed the thousands of manuals on 100% recycled newsprint instead of high quality paper, double-sided all the printers and limited printing jobs to prevent accidental job spooling of thousand page reports?

Next week when we receive our shipment for NRFU (which is like 30 pallettes), they should take back the 10 pallettes of material we still have in our office from last October we are not using to Indiana so they can get a sense of how much waste this is. I want MyTwoCensus.com to try to get Congress and the Inspector General’s office to expose this fruitless waste of money by visiting these offices, conducting an audit or trucking this waste to a centralized location so everyone to see how much waste was produced instead of black bagging it and trying to cover it up. In the age of being green, waste reduction and take back programs not only is the census stuck in primitive paper operation but it is producing administrative forms, manuals, color brochures and posters which are just being thrown away.

Census News Round-Up: Call Center Hiring, Census Forms Being Distributed, Groves Testifies In Washington About 2010 Census Jobs, New York Undercount?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

1. From the Atanta Journal-Constitution: Ryla is hiring 1,400 people in Georgia to work at call centers from April-August, presumably for the Census Bureau’s non-response follow-up operations.

2. From the Terry Haute, Indiana Tribune Star: 2010 Census materials are already being distributed in hard-to-count areas of Indiana.

3. From Ed O’Keefe at The Washington Post:

A majority of the roughly 1.2 million temporary jobs created by the U.S. Census Bureau this year will be created in the late spring, agency Director Robert Groves said Tuesday.

Groves told a Senate subcommittee that 600,000 to 700,000 census takers will be hired from May through early July to visit individual households that fail to return census forms. Some workers currently employed in temporary positions are expected to reapply for new positions and get hired, he said.

“We over-recruited, clearly underestimating the labor market,” Groves said, acknowledging that the nation’s employment situation provided the Census Bureau with a wealth of eager applicants who, according to an agency statement, showed up for training at a much higher rate than they did during the 2000 Census.

4. The venerable New York Times reports that, “The city and the Census Bureau hope to avoid a repeat of the 1990 census, when the city challenged the count and the bureau acknowledged that it missed more than 240,000 New Yorkers.”

Senate Hearing: Countdown to Census Day

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

NOTE: THIS MEETING IS NOW POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER!

FOR RELEASE: Feb. 10, 2010

U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs

HEARING: “Countdown to Census Day: Progress Report on the Census Bureau’s Preparedness for the Enumeration”

WASHINGTON (Feb. 10, 2010) – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, will hold a hearing TOMORROW, Thursday, Feb. 11, at 2:30 p.m. titled “Countdown to Census Day: Progress Report on the Census Bureau’s Preparedness for the Enumeration.”

With less than two months until Census Day 2010, Dr. Robert Groves and other officials will give the committee a progress report.

WHAT:

“Countdown to Census Day: Progress Report on the Census Bureau’s Preparedness for the Enumeration”

WHEN:

Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.

WHERE:

342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Also scheduled to live broadcast at http://hsgac.senate.gov.

WITNESSES:

- The Honorable Robert M. Groves, Director, U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Commerce

- The Honorable Todd J. Zinser, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Commerce

- Robert N. Goldenkoff, Director, Strategic Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office

###

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Dr. Groves, You’ve Got Your Stats Wrong This Time

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Today, the Washington Post reported the following:

Robert Groves said the bureau is trying to determine whether it is feasible to require a second security check on job candidates whose fingerprints cannot be read the first time they are run through the FBI database. The bureau is spending $100 million this year checking fingerprints, the first time it has done so for temporary workers.

Last week, the GAO said it estimated that more than200 temporary employees with unreadable prints might have criminal records that should have disqualified them from being hired.

Groves said people whose prints are hard to decipher tend to be older workers whose ridges have worn down with age or manual workers whose jobs have made their prints less sharp. The average age of temporary census workers with unreadable prints was 63 for men and 55 for women.

While it may be true that the fingerprints of older workers are more difficult to read, this should not take away from the fact that no individuals with disqualifying criminal records should be hired to work for the census. And who’s to say that there are not older individuals who have criminal records? MyTwoCensus.com disagrees with Dr. Groves’ efforts to brush off the GAO’s findings as inconsequential or overstated.  In fact, we suspect that individuals with criminal records would know how to easily go undetected by the Census Bureau’s lax fingerprinting procedures, a topic that we will cover in greater depth in the near future.

McHenry: Census Bureau Failures Are Unacceptable

Monday, October 12th, 2009

WASHINGTON – Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10), Ranking Member on the Census Oversight Subcommittee, released the following statement in response to the troubling admission by the U.S. Census Bureau that its cost estimation models are a complete failure.  The recently concluded address canvassing operation went over budget by 25%.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) also reports that failures in the fingerprint training process led to the hiring of as many as 200 temporary census workers with criminal backgrounds.

“Republicans and Democrats alike stand ready to provide adequate funding for a successful census.  But it now seems that the Census Bureau is incapable of determining what that cost will be.

“While I appreciate Dr. Groves being forthright and understand that these problems are not of his making, corrective action must take place immediately.  The 2010 Decennial, which is already funded to the tune of $14.7 billion, is just around the corner.  The Census Bureau must fix its costs estimation model quickly and report back to Congress with an accurate figure.

“The Census Bureau will soon begin hiring hundreds of thousands of temporary workers and yet its safeguards against hiring criminals are in jeopardy.  GAO has identified insufficient training in fingerprint-taking as the cause of this failure.

“Bureaucratic incompetence that leads to the hiring of criminals as census takers threatens the integrity of 2010 Decennial.  This problem must be fixed immediately and assurances must be given to Congress and the American people that it will not happen again.”