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’

Senate Census panel asks tough questions about 2010 count

Thursday, October 8th, 2009
H/t to Max Cacas of Federal News Radio for the following update on yesterday’s Senate meeting:

The clock continues to tick down to the April 1st start of the 2010 Census, and a Senate oversight subcommittee continues to focus on efforts for an accurate count of the nation’s population next year.

By Max Cacas
Reporter
FederalNewsRadio

With less than 6 months to go before the start of the 2010 decennial census, officials are still coping with uncertainty surrounding the next constitutionally-mandated count of the nation’s population.

On Wednesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, which has oversight over the U.S. Census Bureau, conducted its latest hearing on what will likely be one of the most costly censuses in history.

One of the areas of concern says Robert Goldenkopf, director of Strategic Issues with the Government Accountability Office, is all the uncertainty that underlies the on-again, off again planning for the 2010 census. GAO named the census to its “high risk list” last year because of:

Weakness in its IT management, problems with handheld computers used to collect data, and uncertainty over the final cost of the census.

Doctor Robert Groves, the new census director, says the bureau is generally making good progress toward resolving a long list of problems related to the 2010 census, but says one thing keeping him up late at night is concern about just how many Americans will fill out their forms, and get them back in the mail as soon as possible.

The behavior of the American public in March and April of next year is a big uncertainty in regards to that. Scores of millions of dollars will be spent following up with houses that don’t return the mail questionnaire. Its important to hit that target, that estimate well.

Groves told the panel that the vacancy rate of homes due to the recession, and related home foreclosures, could complicate the effort to have as many people as possible return their census forms in the first round of the count between the first week of April and mid-May.

Director Groves also told the panel that even at this late date, the Census Bureau continues to develop software to handle the paper-based “Non-Response Followup” stage of the census. This was a part of the census that had been slated to be performed using a highly automated system in conjunction with the controversial hand-held computers. Last year, census officials decided not to use the handhelds for this portion of the census count because development of the automation system was lagging far behind other portions of the census.

Lawmakers continued to press for the use of the Internet and web-based tools to speed the count and reduce costs. But Groves told Senator John McCain (R.-Az.) that it is too late in preparations for the count to integrate web-based data gathering in the 2010 census. Groves did say that in August of next year, as the formal census count is being concluded, there is a small-scale test planned to gauge the possibility of one day using the web for the 2020 census.

Under questioning, Groves also revealed that as recently as 5 years ago, there was a proposal that a web-based census follow-up pilot program be conducted in college campus dormitories during the 2010 count to test the viability of using new technologies to improve the count, but said the idea was never formally made a part of next year’s population tally. On Wednesday, several lawmakers, including McCain, expressed support for the possibility of short-term legislation that would provide funding and support for a dorm-based pilot program for the census.

Press Release from Senator Tom Carper’s office

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

FOR RELEASE: Oct. 6, 2009

CONTACT:  Bette Phelan (202) 224-2441

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

HEARING: “2010 Census – A Status Update of Key Decennial Operations.”

WASHINGTON (Oct. 6, 2009) – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, will hold a hearing Wednesday, October 7 at 3:00 p.m. titled “2010 Census: A Status Update of Key Decennial Operations.”

With less than six months before Census Day 2010, this hearing will provide a status update of key decennial operations, estimated to cost more than $14.7 billion.

Census Director Dr. Robert Groves, in his first appearance before the committee since his confirmation, will provide updates on the Bureau’s recent completion of its address canvassing operation; the progress of the Bureau’s testing of key decennial information technology and operational systems; the use of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act spending to enhance outreach to hard-to-count communities; and the Bureau’s response to program and operational challenges identified by both GAO and the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General.

WHEN:Wednesday, October 7 at 3:00 p.m.

WHERE: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

WITNESSES:

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

Todd Zinser, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Commerce

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

Can Harry Reid Make Robert M. Groves’ Confirmation Happen?

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Well, now we know where the holdup came from! It was not one, but two senators, David Vitter (R-LA) and Richard Shelby (R-Al) who have been blocking Robert M. Groves’ confirmation to become the next U.S. Census Director. MyTwoCensus is inquiring with both of these Senator’s offices and we will be able to have their responses for you within the next 24 hours. We give a hearty hat tip to Roll Call for the following report:

By Jessica Brady
Roll Call Staff
July 9, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is looking to force a vote as early as this week on the stalled nomination of Robert Groves to lead the Census Bureau, hoping to harness his new 60-seat majority to overcome holds by a pair of Republicans.

“I think we’re going to have a cloture vote,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Wednesday, noting that Reid will likely file a procedural motion to advance the long-stalled nomination.

Republican Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and David Vitter (La.) each have holds on Groves, director of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and a former Census Bureau official, over concerns he would use statistical sampling for the 2010 effort. Republicans charge that the technique, designed to better capture undercounted groups such as minorities, is unconstitutional and a political maneuver.

But Democrats who favor Groves’ installment as Census Bureau director are eager to get him in place before the national population count officially gets under way in just eight months.

“The reality is this census is already hopping on one leg,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) said, expressing fear that “Latinos and other minorities are going to be severely undercounted.”

Carper last month called a meeting with Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to hatch a plan to unlock the GOP hold on Groves. There has been no follow-up to the June 16 meeting, both Carper and Collins said. The Homeland Security panel has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau.

“I still think he should be confirmed. He’s well-qualified, and I don’t know why some of my colleagues have a hold on him,” Collins said of Groves, who was confirmed by her panel on a unanimous vote on May 20.

But Vitter and Shelby have been unrelenting in their holds, demanding assurances from the White House including a guarantee from President Barack Obama that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which came under fire in 2008 over allegations of voter fraud, would not participate in the 2010 effort.

“Sen. Vitter is holding the Groves nomination until he gets written confirmation from the White House addressing two concerns: that sampling will not be used and that ACORN will have nothing to do with the census,” Vitter spokesman Joel DiGrado said.

Shelby wrote a letter to the president in March to question ACORN’s involvement in the census.

The census, conducted every 10 years, assesses the nation’s population and demographic makeup and influences the allocation of Congressional districts throughout the country. Next year’s head count will cost at least $14 billion, and according to a report by the Government Accountability Office issued in March, preparations for 2010 are ill-managed and behind schedule.

In addition to hefty legislative priorities and the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Reid has a backlog of two-dozen executive nominations awaiting floor consideration. The Majority Leader has had to use procedural rules to break GOP opposition on several nominations so far this year.

“We of course want to confirm all of these nominees as quickly as possible,” Reid spokeswoman Regan LaChapelle said in a statement Wednesday. “It is unfortunate to have to use precious floor time on these nominations, all of which so far have eventually been confirmed. We have so many important issues to address and the president needs his full team.”

Congressman weighs in on inconsistent hiring figures

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Update: 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 fact-checking new major allegations.

Earlier today, Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post reported, “the House lawmaker charged with overseeing the Census has expressed some early, if only vague concerns about how Census workers have performed their address canvassing duties, or the national inventory of every place of residence.

“While I’m very pleased that Address Canvassing has gone well for the most part, it’s too early to declare the operation a complete success because there are still some unanswered questions,” Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said in a statement yesterday. “The Commerce Department Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office have both expressed concern about some listers not following procedures for Address Canvassing and some shortcomings in quality control measures.” A spokesman would not elaborate.”‘

Below, please find a press release that echoes many of the issues that MyTwoCensus has previously reported about employment and unemployment figures not adding up. Apparently at least one member of Congress (Patrick McHenry) has caught on…

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Brock McCleary
June 9, 2009 Phone: (202) 225-2576

McHenry: Is the Administration erroneously counting census jobs?

WASHINGTON – Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, issued the following query regarding Obama Administration officials’ claims that the stimulus package will “save or create” 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days.

“As hiring for the 2010 Census continues, the American people ought to know whether the Obama Administration is attempting to include the thousands of temporary and part-time census workers in their count of 600,000 jobs ‘saved or created.’

“Including census workers would be disingenuous at best.  First, the Obama Administration didn’t invent the census; these are positions which are created every ten years, regardless of who occupies the White House.

“Furthermore, attempting to combine these part-time and temporary jobs to count them as full-time positions is not an accurate picture of the nature of the work.  As many families struggling to make ends meet with a series of part-time jobs can tell you, two part-time jobs does not equal one full-time job.

“I hope the Administration will be forthcoming about whether these temporary positions, which would have been created regardless of stimulus spending, are included in their jobs count.”

Note:    The 2010 Decennial Census is expected to result in 200,000 hires in 2009, which the Office of Management and Budget scores as the equivalent of 17,197 full-time positions.  In 2010, the Census Bureau will hire an estimated 700,000 workers, the equivalent of 105,391 full-time positions.

###

FedEx-gate: Census Bureau wastes $3 million

Monday, June 8th, 2009

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.

Census Bureau not ready for 2010 Count!

Friday, March 6th, 2009

The Washington Post Federal Eye blog reports, “The Eye attended two congressional hearings on the Census on Thursday, and along with colleague Steve Vogel reports that “The accuracy of the 2010 Census remains threatened by computer problems and untested methods the Census Bureau plans to use for conducting the count, according to testimony yesterday from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Sadly, but not unsurprisingly, the news is grim:

At the end of this month, the Census Bureau is expected to begin the first operational phase – setting up a massive address list – for the upcoming 2010 Census. And the next constitutionally-mandated decennial count of the nation’s population is itself a little more than one year away. Two Congressional committees held hearings Thursday to determine if the Census Bureau is ready.

The verdict, after hearings in both the House and the Senate subcommittees with direct jurisdiction over the Census, is that depending on who you talk to, the glass is either half-full, or half-empty.

On the one hand, there is Thomas Mesenbourg, the acting director of the Census, who told the House Census subcommittee that everything is essentially fine, and the problems of the census are all being taken care of:

I can report we are on the way to a successful enumeration. A complete and accurate address list is the cornerstone of a successful census. Throughout the decade, we regularly update the list we had in Census 2000. In 2007, we invited tribal, state, and local governments to review our address lists for accuracy and completeness. Address canvassing, the first activity of the 2010 Census, starts on March 30th, and runs through July of 2009.

The GAO’s comments are the latest to highlight difficulties for the census, which now costs $14 billion and has been beset by partisan bickering. Disagreements over the handling of the census were part of the reason GOP Sen. Judd Gregg, President Barack Obama’s pick as commerce secretary, withdrew his name last month.

However, the Government Accountability Office has other thoughts on the matter. Robert Goldenkoff heads up Strategic Issues for the GAO, and issued a report yesterday saying the Census Bureau is playing beat the clock, with very little margin for error:

The bureau has made commendable progress in rolling out key components of the census, and has strengthened certain risk management efforts. Still, the census remains high risk because a dress rehearsal of all census operations that was planned for 2008 was curtailed. As a result, activities, including some that will be used for the first time in the Census were not tested in concert with one another, or under census-like conditions.

And the GAO’s David Powner, who analyzes Information Technology, has an even harsher assessment of the Census bureau’s IT.

“Our report contains 10 detailed recommendations that the bureau has agreed to address,” he testified before both committees. ” For example, our investigation shows that not only were there not plans for this testing, but there was not even a master list or inventory of the interfaces. Not having such basic information is unacceptable.”