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 ‘payroll’

Here’s an update on 2010 Census employment stats…

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

There are still about 200,000 people working on 2010 Census operations:

Rumor: Change in DAPPS Payroll Software?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Anyone have any knowledge about the following tip:

Subject: DAPPS payroll software change
Message Body:
It appears that the following occurred on either 6/27 or 6/28. A change to D-308 timesheet editing rules in DAPPS was implemented which no longer permits timesheets to include entries for which one entry ends at the same time as the next begins. Such entries have been accepted up until now, and are *necessary* to properly record work across the midnight boundary. Rumor has it that the change was made to stop somebody from getting extra pay by exploiting a bug in the system.

It is not clear what the details are, for example how multiple task codes affect the results, but it is known for certain that work across the midnight boundary is affected, and that the new edit rules can cause errors between timesheets and batches. Washington I.T. support apparently is telling people they have to shift their time 1/4 hour away from midnight (trivially, falsifying their timesheets). My LCO discovered that payroll batches which had been entered without errors for the previous week, if re-opened and re-saved for any reason, generated NEW errors. It also appears that a key diagnostic report regarding overlapping time is now, sometimes, “broken” in a way that masks existing errors.

If my understanding of DAPPS is correct, it is *possible* that MANY LCOs experienced errors when payroll was transmitted 6/29.

The change was made the day before payroll had to be wrapped up and transmitted, and there was NOT SO MUCH AS AN E-MAIL NOTIFICATION. We can’t be the only ones who got burned; HQ I.T. support confirmed the situation and provided the workaround.

I would love to know how much of a problem this has caused, and/or whether the change had to be backed out of the code. As of Tuesday afternoon 6/29 the change was still in place.

Daily Sound Off: A multitude of problems in Arizona

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Enjoy the following:

Subject: payroll/wages and hours/overtime; proxies, etc./data integrity v. pr-driven deadlines

Message Body:
Denials of overtime claims similar to those reported in Houston (Monday’s
post) – coupled with demands to actually work as long as necessary to meet
artificial deadlines and the resultant spillover of hours into the next pay period -
have occurred in  the Phoenix area.  Other responses to the deadlines, some
potentially affecting data reliability, have included directives to change field
procedures (e.g.: seek a proxy on first unsuccessful visit; complete interviews on
the basis of very limited data from proxies; etc.).  The pressures for sudden wrap
up of Census tasks – usually at the eleventh hour – have coincided with pending
local office visits from the regional office, and have increased in intensity as
close-out (and visit) dates neared, resulting in multiple, contradictory directives
from day-to-day and even within a single day.  As a result, both all or most
non-response followup interview and re-interview (“quality” assurance) closure
deadlines have been met ahead of their original schedules.  The question of data
reliability, however, remains open but usually unasked.  It sure as hell has felt like
pressure from the top downwards to finish by or ahead of deadlines and under
budget, presumably to deflect increasing public scrutiny of past delays, computer
problems, mapping errors, etc.).  Whatever the cause, it has not been pretty.

And more from the same person:

Well, four new reinterview (“RI”) enumerators have joined our QA (aka “RI”) crew for a total of 16 – or 15 (see below) -, reputedly because,
having been trained (and paid for going through 40 hours of training), they MUST be utilized.  The rub is that our original 12-person team
has not had enough cases referred to us over the past 2-and-a-half weeks in the field to satisfy each of our minimum 20-hour work week
“requirement.”  Reputedly (this is what the mid-level echelon tells us), the new crew members were trained in anticipation of enumerator attrition that has not occurred.  Nonetheless, apparently, the new enumerators must be employed now, despite the fact that the reason they were hired and trained (at taxpayer expense) has not materialized, and despite the further fact that there isn’t sufficient work even for those of us who were trained three weeks ago.  Also, reputedly (we’re ALL mushrooms in this cellar!), training of new RI enumerators is STILL ongoing, and we can expect more new crew members next week.

I should add that one of our enumerators has been promoted to “crew leader assistant” status; so, we now have a ratio of 1 leader or
assistant leader to every 5 enumerators.  Thus, our enumerator crew actually is 15, formerly 12: 12 -1 + 4 = 15.

What does a crew leader or crew leader assistant do?  Mostly sit in fast food and storefront restaurants 5 hours per day and fill out
paperwork or, lacking that (something NONE of us often lack) just shoot the shit, so that we all can log our minimum 20-hours per week (just
by attending meaningless meetings!) while the actual casework dribbles out at a slower rate than BP’s rate of contained oil per day.

Oh, yah, and some of us use meeting time to (still) “project” our hours and mileage at essentially mid-day each weekday workday, so
that our CL and CLA’s can get the daily pay logs into Payroll early enough to keep them happy.  They appear to be the only OVER-worked
Census workers in Central Arizona these days!  Meanwhile, the trainees keep on comin’.  The casework does not.  Meanwhile, I still wonder,
when does “projection” become falsification?  But, sadly, I’m caring less these days.  I know that I will not – ULTIMATELY – claim unworked hours; but I also KNOW that shit rolls downhill.

I hasten to add that I respect our CL totally.  But, like us all, that person’s caught in what increasingly appears like a shabbily jerry-rigged
system.

As far as an “actual count”???

So, why is there no work? Reputedly (mushroom factor again) because the outsourced PBOX or PBACHS or Whatever computer system
server can’t support the volume of LOC logins per day nationwide.  So, if that’s true, the problem is nationwide and worthy of a Proxmire Golden Fleece Award, for those of us old enough to remember.

But, hey, I’m just a happy mushroom in these economically troubled times.  Pity the Gulf of Mexico’s nesting birds!  Pity the U.S. taxpayers!
Technically, we are a crew, now, of 15 enumerators and 3 administrators (crew leader and 2 crew leader assistants).  We have no cases to work
and the food at Denny’s sucks but, in the afternoon, we meet someplace with bagels, bean dip or baklava!

A rumor grows in Brooklyn

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Latest Update:

I currently work at Brooklyn LCO 2225. I read on your blog (in the comments section) that someone stated that Jenny Ortiz-Bowman was among the two people fired recently from our office for helping with the faslification. This is untrue. Ms. Ortiz-Bowman has not worked in our office in months and was not part of the falsification of EQ’s. That was someone else. It was the manager who took Jenny’s place, Sonya Merritt, who got fired last week. Jenny was not part of it. In fact, she got fired months ago because she did not want to rush her operation and wanted to do things right.
-Anonymous

UPDATES:

1. Subject: bed bug infestation

Message Body:

rumors aren’t the only thing growing in brooklyn.  at lco 2226, the staff in the admin department are all sitting on plastic covered chairs.  the exterminator brought in the bug sniffing dog and confirmed their department is infested with blood sucking bed bugs.  you can’t make this up!

2. From the comments section:

“Let’s put names to these two losers….Mr ALVIN AVILES and MS JENNY ORTIZ – BOWMAN…..supervised by AREA Manager MS DARLENE LOPEZ…let the games begin LOL”

Any truth to this submission?

Subject: Brooklyn LCOM fired for falsifying EQ’s

Message Body:
At the RCC rumors are flying about an LCOM in Brooklyn that was fired for falsifying EQ’s, payroll and D-291′s.  Please investigate

Are there any payroll problems in your office?

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Apparently there are still some going on

Census Bureau waste found…on Twitter

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Back in December, Emily Babay added a “Twitter Feed” to the MyTwoCensus homepage. This tool has proved all too valuable in finding out intricate details of Census Bureau problems. If you want to see why/how your tax dollars are wasted, look at the below Tweet for why. Great job payroll system! (FYI the term #lml stands for “love my life.”)

Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves says that operations are winding down; Mass #layoffs ahead at the #2010 #Census

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

We knew this day would come. Yesterday, Robert M. Groves tweeted and blogged that 2010 Census operations are winding down.

Groves wrote, “As of Sunday, we have completed and checked-in about 44 million enumerator forms for this operation of the approximately 47 million; we’re at about 93% complete in this operation. We are somewhat ahead of schedule and certainly under-budget.”

My first (snarky) comment is that its not hard to be under-budget when you are given a $15 billion blank check that is more than triple what your predecessors had to work with in 2000.

My second, realistic comment, is that there are still 3 million households that have not been counted. With the end of operations looming near, this invites fraud on many levels, as individuals will likely be pressured by their higher-ups, all the way through the chain of command back to Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland to get forms completed come hell or high water.

Subtly, Dr. Groves also warned of mass layoffs in the coming days. He wrote;

However, for many we will have to say our goodbyes. It is to them that this entry is dedicated –

You were among the best labor force for a decennial census in decades; you brought to the census family the strongest set of skills and intelligence, the best work experience, incredible flexibility, and a strong devotion to serving the American public by devoting your talents to the 2010 Census. On behalf of the full Census Bureau family, I thank you for your service to the country, and I wish you well in the next steps in your careers. I hope some of the experiences you had during this massive, complicated, messy effort will provide knowledge that makes you a better employee in your next endeavor. Thank you again.

Also, please say a warm and fuzzy goodbye to Obama Administration job creation statistics that were inflated by Census Bureau hires!

Daily Sound Off: Are Census Bureau officials getting bonuses based on performance?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

This came in through our submission form:

I would sure like to see a story on who in the census office are getting bonuses and for what.

Out of the Matteson Office 2526 we have been given deadline dates by the LCOM John Mathis such as one a week ago, then one today, etc.  In a meeting with the LCOM, someone from the RCC Chicago office, brought up these dates John seemed to change his mind on the dates.  Someone else then asked if anyone is getting bonuses for completing early.  The RCC guy said “Who said we are getting bonuses?”

I think any bonuses if they exist for finishing early are only going to cause more bad census data as we are rushed to meet dates that are falsely imposed.  The website says this part of the operation should end in early July.

So can you find out what bonuses are offered to census management and for what?  Then we can start writing our congress people to abolish them.  The only bonus I think should be for getting a complete and accurate count of all people and where they lived on April 1st.

Daily Sound Off: Census software violates federal law

Friday, June 11th, 2010

This Daily Sound Off comes from Bob in Elgin, Illinois:

Until Tuesday I was the AMT (Asst. Manager for Technology) for the Elgin IL census office.

Around April 1st, a change was made to DAPPS (Decennial Applicant, Personnel, and Payroll System) so that it required us to ask employees for the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number to reset their passwords. This is a direct violation of the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, and placed me personally at risk of fines and jail every time I illegally requested this information of another employee. I immediately notified IT management of this issue, and opened a trouble ticket.

Despite my complaints, this issue was never fixed. A proper disclosure could have been added to the screen to be read to the employee. Or something other than SSN could have been used to verify identity. The system even asked new users 3 security questions (hobby,favorite color, pets name) when they first logged in, but these are NEVER used anywhere. Or we could have continued to reset passwords with no further authentication, since these users were all in the office and personally known. This was not a situation where passwords were being reset from remote requests over the phone or internet where verification of identity is an issue.

On May 4th, I was ordered by my area manager, Richard Earley (Chicago RCC) to do this in violation of the law, and threatened with termination if I refused to comply. I responded that he did not have the authority to order me to violate federal law.

On May 6th, Richard Earley stopped in our Elgin office, again ordered me to violate this law, and wrote me up twice on D-282 disciplinary forms. He indicated that he would provide me with copies of those forms, and indicate exactly what rules I had violated in refusing to violate the law, but never did either of these.

In late May a new NRFU Shipping application was rolled out to replace the severely performance limited PBOCS system. The new ship app was based on DAPPS, and had the same illegal SSN request to reset passwords. I immediately logged another trouble ticket to alert management of this issue.

Tuesday afternoon, June 8th Richard Earley again came to our office with a letter written by his staff ordering my termination, that he forced our local office manager to sign under threat of termination. Richard was the only one that spoke to me, terminating me on the spot, and walking me out the door. Although a D283 is required for termination, I never saw a copy of that form.

In addition, our Chicago RCC has issued an edict that we can’t terminate anyone for performance issues, we have to demote them to a lower position. This has been done to other employees in my office, but was not done in my case.

According to the rules on this web site

http://www.osc.gov/pppwhatare.htm

Both my discipline and termination are illegal actions.

I have contacted several federal regulatory agencies, including EEO, OMB, OIG, and OSC and filed complaints as soon as I was disciplined.

In addition the census bureau owes a $1000 penalty to every employee that has been asked for an SSN to have their password reset (probably 5-10K people at a cost of $5-10M), according to the Privacy Act. And those responsible for this illegal system should be fined $5000 per the same law.

I would be more than happy to provide additional information on this issue, and would really appreciate it if you would publicize the census violations of the law.

The computer systems have so many bugs and performance issues, that I question that this census will produce a true and accurate count of our population.

Our RCC manages by intimidation and harassment. They have gone out of their way to create a hostile work environment for all involved in this operation. I don’t know if this is a local issue (IL, WI, IN) or national. In my 35 years of work history, I have NEVER seen so many illegal actions in a place of work as this one experience of working for my own government. I find it disgusting.

Daily Sound Off: The real problems with payroll

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

I work for the payroll department in my LCO.  I wanted to explain some things about how Census payroll works and why people are getting paid late.  I would appreciate if my name were left out of this, but feel free to publish some or all of the information contained below.

As you may know, in order to get paid for a day’s work a Census employee must submit a daily payroll form that we lovingly refer to as a “308.”  The 308 contains several redundancies to help catch potential errors.  For instance, the employee must mark both the date worked and the day of the week worked, and if these do not match the 308 will not be processed until the office can determine what date the employee actually worked.  The employee also must enter the number of hours worked and the times worked, and if these do not match the employee will be paid for the lesser of the two numbers.  Finally any expenses incurred must be explained and any over $5 must be accompanied by a receipt; in order to save taxpayer dollars we regularly reject claims for ridiculous things that the employee does not need to complete their assignment.

The reasons that we’re having so much delayed payroll come down to the problems with processing these time sheets.  First of all, as I mentioned before, if there are any errors with a paysheet, that sheet may be placed into a problem file to be dealt with later.  Ideally we deal with all problem 308s in their appropriate pay period, but the first three weeks of NRFU were not ideal.  You’ve heard of all the paperwork new employees have to fill out?  All of that has to be processed by the admin department *before* an employee can be paid.  Admin departments basically had to begin processing one to two thousand hiring packets plus five to ten thousand pay sheets starting at the end of the first day of training and be finished by the following Monday.  For many LCOs, that just didn’t happen.  That’s why we all put in overtime that week – to try to get as many people paid as possible.

Now, from the perspective of someone whose job it is to process paysheets, the thing about problem 308s is that some are very easy to deal with and some are very difficult, but almost none of them would exist if the employees themselves took the time to fill these things out right.  Everyone who works for the census was tested on the ability to read and count and everyone who works for the census was hired basically to enter information on forms, and filling out pay sheets does not require any skills beyond these.  And yet we continuously have problems with people who apparently cannot count to 40 – who either claim overtime with under 40 hours a week worked, or claim no overtime with more than 40 hours a week worked.  We continue having problems with people who apparently cannot glance at a calendar long enough to verify both the date and the day of the week.  So while we try to get these errors fixed, a large portion of the employees who are getting paid late are being delayed because they made mistakes on their paperwork that we cannot easily deal with.

Of course the other problem we’re facing is that we can’t process payroll that we don’t have.  I’ve heard numerous stories of FOSes and CLs who don’t submit 308s on time.  I understand from the Crew Leaders’ position that they have a lot to do, but most of our CLs get their 308s in on time.  The maybe 5% who don’t account for 90% of the phone calls we get from enumerators who have missed several days’ pay from their checks.

This is a personnel problem.  We simply don’t have a good way to motivate large numbers of temporary employees to do their jobs promptly and correctly.  Every job has its share of lazy or incompetent employees.  The Census does work to terminate these, but if we have to give each CL who brings payroll in late (or never) at least two warnings, that’s at least three weeks of delayed payroll before we can replace the person, which is why we’re getting stories from across the country of whole crews who haven’t been paid for two or three weeks of working.  Rumor around the office has it that the terminations for unsatisfactory performance are going to start coming fast and furious starting next week, although we’ve already got a decent pile going now.

Now, the admin department gets well over a hundred calls a week inquiring about missing hours or days.  In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases – including every single call I have personally handled – these hours or days are already processed and on their way to the employee on the next pay period.  I understand that it is difficult for many people, especially those whose only job is the Census, to have to wait three weeks instead of two to be paid for a particular day’s work.  Some people may be counting on being paid on time.  I think that the situation would have been helped immensely if we had issued a blanket disclaimer at training or even during the hiring process that it is normal for it to take up to four weeks to be paid for any particular day worked.  Somehow, people formed an expectation that a gigantic government bureaucracy staffed entirely by people with virtually no experience would be fast and efficient at handling paperwork, which makes me wonder if none of these employees who are calling us up or going to the media because their pay is a week late have ever tried to mail a letter or get a driver’s license.  Anyhow, we try to stay cheerful but a certain fatalism develops when all we can do is tell people, essentially, that their check is in the mail.

I can say that fortunately our department is now caught up with payroll on a weekly basis, and it is only when CLs or FOSes bring 308s in late that we process them late.  However, payroll is already on a delayed basis by design – so if I work on a Monday, that 308 gets processed by the LCO and “closed” the following Monday, which means that a direct deposit will be issued the week after that, usually on a Wednesday – a delay of up to 17 days.  So people who missed hours on their last paycheck were actually missing hours for the week of May 9-15 – which was basically the second week of actual work, and third week of employment, and at that point we had many but not all of our glitches ironed out.  By that point we had issued directives to FOSes and CLs about how and when to fill out and bring in 308s and started getting positive responses, which should be reflected in even fewer errors in next week’s checks.

However, the heart of this issue is actually in how the Census approaches the hiring process.  While the recruiting process stretches over two years, the hiring process is basically crammed into a week.  Queens LCOs had to hire 1600 – 2200 employees over the week of April 19th, for a training session that started April 26th.  This has obvious problems.  First of all, we were asking people – many of whom had taken the test months ago, in the fall or even summer – to drop everything and come in for training with a week’s (or in some cases, a day’s) notice.  This is pointless and disrespectful and also resulted in the loss of many promising candidates.  Basically, we weeded out everyone who had a job, or responsibilities, or the ability to plan, or the self-respect to demand to be treated courteously by an employer; then we hired whoever was left.  Certainly we found some people who were competent and hard-working and just down on their luck or hit by the economy, but the overall caliber of employees is lower than what it would have been if we had given people adequate notice or contacted them in a timely fashion after they took their test.

The second problem is, as I have said, the logistical difficulty of processing 2000 new hires at once.  If we had hired people on some kind of rolling basis we could have gotten their paperwork filed and their payroll started up before they had to start working.  If we had started hiring and taking care of administrative matters in, say, March or even April 1st, as most test-takers were promised, then we could have gotten people trained, processed, and into payroll before NRFU even began.  This would have eased the burden on admin, but also on NRFU and the people who had to get training sites for thousands of people all during one week.  This would also have reduced the number of people who were verbally hired but never contacted again, or who attended training but were never assigned a CL, or who were assigned a CL but never any work.

Also, there simply has to be a less resource-intensive way to handle payroll than having each employee hand a piece of paper to their CL each day, to be handed to the FOS each day, to be brought into the office each day, to then be audited by one clerk and then entered into the payroll system by another clerk and then sent to a different agency entirely for final processing.  We did payroll exactly the same way in the 2000 Census, and guess what?  We’ve had ten years and the internet since then.  We have secure banking, we have ebay, amazon, paypal (all of which, I realize, we also had in 2000).  Why can’t we have a server that the employee can log on to to enter their information; that the CL can log on to to approve the hours worked and digitally sign; that can automate the auditing process and eliminate the need for a separate data entry process?  I believe I was promised a paperless society when this whole internet thing started, so what gives?

In short, we in payroll are struggling to get everyone’s pay processed correctly and on time, but the system for doing so is incredibly inefficient, incapable of surviving the level of human error presented by barely-trained temporary Census employees, and compressed into a set of arbitrary and irrational time-frames that make actual prioritization of tasks or long-term planning impossible.  So some of us are doing the best we can, some people aren’t doing well at all, and are being fired ASAP, but ultimately I think we have to blame the planners.  There’s really nothing any of us on the ground can do to remedy the systemic problems that come from an unnecessarily paper-heavy and error-prone operation in which everything is rushed and the right hand never seems to know what the left hand is doing.

Census workers aren’t being paid in Queens…

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Here’s the Daily News story…

This post is dedicated to the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications Steve Jost: More pay delays for Western North Carolina census workers

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Even though spin doctor Steve Jost, tried to Jost-ify the Census Bureau’s failure to pay its employees properly and on time in the comments section of this blog, this latest report from North Carolina details how Congressman Heath Shuler had to step in to enable emergency checks to be issued to Census Bureau employees — checks that are yet to arrive. Thanks to Julie Ball of the Citizen Times for the following:

ASHEVILLE — Some Western North Carolina census workers are still waiting on emergency checks after payroll problems caused some workers to get no or only partial pay this week.

Karla Gay, local census office manager for the city office, said those workers should have the emergency pay by next week, but she could not say for sure when.

“I know that there are people who are living paycheck to paycheck, and it’s very important. I want them to know we are doing everything we can,” Gay said Friday.

Workers who didn’t request emergency pay won’t get caught up on their pay until Wednesday, according to Gay.

“At this point, what we are telling folks really is to sit tight … people will be paid on Wednesday,” said Tony Jones, with media relations for the Charlotte Regional Census Center.

U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler sent a letter Friday to U.S. Census officials urging them to resolve the problem.

Gay said between 5 and 8 percent of 1,100 workers who are doing census work in 11 WNC counties had pay problems, getting either no pay or partial pay Wednesday. She could not say how many of them requested emergency pay.

Of five states covered by the Charlotte regional office — North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia — the pay problem only occurred in the Asheville and Charlotte offices, according to Jones.

Jones didn’t have an exact count, but said between 1 and 4 percent of the 1,300 workers in Charlotte either didn’t get paid or got only a partial payment.

Census officials have attributed the pay problem to incomplete or unsigned pay sheets and problems with bank account numbers submitted by workers. But at least one worker has said there were no problems with her paperwork.

“We also had challenges here in the office with getting the volume of work in because it came in late,” Gay said.

Unlike the 2000 Census when workers submitted weekly pay sheets, census workers must fill out and sign a pay sheet every day they work. Each individual sheet must then be audited.

Jones said there are people working “24-seven” on nothing but payroll.

Some WNC workers who didn’t get paid have contacted Shuler’s office and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s office to complain about the problem.

Stephanie Allen, spokeswoman for Hagan, said the office is turning the information over to U.S. Census officials.

Julie Fishman, communications director for Shuler, said if census workers are having trouble with their pay, they can call Shuler’s office at 252-1651 and leave their name and the city/town they are working in.

Shuler’s office is compiling the information and will send it directly to Charlotte.

Screenshot: The # of Census Bureau employees by week…

Friday, May 14th, 2010

This data comes from the Census Bureau’s web site: