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 ‘NRFU’

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 Bureau Press Office Responds To Our Controversial Jobs Post

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Last Monday, we published a controversial post about the length of Census Bureau jobs, which we learned from a Census Bureau insider are often-times over-stated. Our question about this issue to the Census Bureau’s public information office was initially met with a very vague response. However, yesterday, we received an elaborate response from Stephen Buckner, who runs the show (so-to-speak) when it comes to the suits of Suitland dealing with the press.

(Here’s my best description of Stephen in one sentence: Picture Aaron Eckhart’s character Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking, but change all of the mumbo-jumbo about cigarettes to the Census Bureau.)

The following is the unabridged response from Mr. Buckner:

The length of time a temporary census worker may be employed depends upon the time frame in which they are hired and the operation taking place at that time.

The skills needed, and number of staff required, vary across our numerous operations in the massive undertaking.   The single largest operation is Non-Response Follow-Up (door-to-door enumeration) from May through July with hiring and training in April.  Over 600,000 persons will be hired for this operation, however the precise number is dependent upon the share of households that mail back their census form in March – April.  We would like nothing more than to be required to hire far less than our planning goals because far more households mailed back their census forms than we have witnessed in prior censuses.

Our hiring process has to recruit a large pool of applicants so that we are prepared for a range of response rates across the entire country.  We know from experience some areas will need many more workers than other parts of the country and we are using historical data to help be prepared for these variations.   Other major operations for which we recruit temporary employees include the Update/Leave operation, (the hand delivery of questionnaires to 12 million housing units in March), staffing Questionnaire Assistance Centers from Feb 26 to Apr 19, staffing Be Counted Sites from Mar 19 to Apr 19, and staffing Telephone Questionnaire Assistance from Feb 25 to July 30.

The Census Bureau builds a recruiting pool of applicants in order to have readily available and qualified workers for all operations.  These individual operations take place over a number of months, but people are not hired to work from start to end on all operations.  Most jobs last only a few weeks, and sometimes less if there is not a large workload in a particular area.  It is difficult to explain these complexities in a brief recruiting message or advertisement, especially in this economy.  During our interview and training process, we try to stress that we are not hiring a workforce to be in place from beginning to end of all of our operations.  The length of time temporary employees may serve is also dependent upon the efficiency of the total workforce in any given operation or location.   If we recruit and hire a more experienced and qualified workforce that completes tasks at rates higher than projected, then they are likely to be employed for shorter periods.

Our regional and local census offices monitor recruiting at the census tract level in order to make every effort to recruit from the neighborhood where the work is to be done.  In the 2010 Census we are able to focus in on those hard-to-recruit tracts because it has taken less effort to recruit in the other tracts.   We’ve never done such detailed tracking before in prior censuses.

Most 2010 Census jobs are temporary and last up to several weeks.  It is correct that some jobs will last 8 months.  This refers to management positions in Local Census Offices which began opening last fall.  However, there are far fewer of these positions in comparison to field jobs described above.