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 ‘Todd Zinser’

The latest update on the Brooklyn 2010 Census falsification scandal (Price Tag: $250K)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

MyTwoCensus has been informed that Census Bureau employees have been lifting information off the Internet and falsifying forms at locations throughout the country. Whistleblowers should not hesitate to contact MyTwoCensus.com immediately. Your confidentiality will be 100% maintained.

On Monday, July 19, 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled, “Is Brooklyn Being Counted? – Problems With the 2010 Census” to examine a recent incident involving two senior managers at the Brooklyn North East Local Census Office who were fired for fraudulently completing census surveys.  The hearing examined the steps the Census Bureau is taking to ensure the accuracy of the 2010 count. The New York State Congressional Delegation has been invited to participate in the hearing.

The hearing was held on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. in the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall, located at 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY.

The witnesses who testified were:

Dr. Robert M. Groves
Director
U.S. Census Bureau

Mr. Todd J. Zinser
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Lester A. Farthing
Regional Director
U.S. Census Bureau NY Regional Census Center

Opening Statement of Chairman Edolphus Towns

Opening Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Wm. Lacy Clay

Opening Statement of Rep. Yvette Clarke

Prepared testimony of Dr. Robert Groves

Prepared testimony of Mr. Todd Zinser

According to the New York Daily News:

The bungling was first uncovered last month when two census managers were discovered faking surveys by lifting information off the Internet.

Brooklyn Northeast census manager Alvin Aviles and assistant Sonya Merritt were axed – and 4,200 questionnaires had to be redone.

Redoing the phony forms – which is almost complete – will cost taxpayers $250,000, Groves revealed.

To make matters worse, a whistleblower recently alerted officials that some of the new surveys also were fudged by workers who took their best guess when no one answered the door.

The workers estimated the number of people living in a home based on information such as names on mailboxes, Groves said at the hearing.

“This … is a clear violation of procedures,” he said.

Groves said the second snafu affected a few hundred households. He blamed the mistake on confused workers who misunderstood instructions.

The bureau is investigating whether information was faked in any other offices in Brooklyn or around the country.

He promised the bureau will come up with an accurate count and said that the recount of all 4,200 surveys will be done in a few days.

“I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred,” Groves said. “This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

According to Gothamist:

Census Recounters Messed Up Recount, Re-recount Planned

Those Brooklyn Census workers really don’t want to lose their jobs. After being instructed to redo more than 4,000 falsified Census forms, workers at the Brooklyn Northeast Census office botched the corrections and must complete the forms a third time.

One office worker recently alerted officials that some workers were fudging answers when people wouldn’t answer their doors—exactly what managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt did to get themselves fired and start this whole mess in the first place. The best part is the whole $250,000 SNAFU could probably have been avoided, since Census workers are allowed to leave questions blank if they cannot obtain the information by either first person or “proxy” interviews.

At a hearing yesterday regarding the first set of faked forms, Congressman Ed Towns said, “I represent a district that is comprised of a number of so-called ‘hard to count’ communities…These communities present challenges to the Census Bureau, but these challenges must be met.” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves says the second round of mistakes were caused by confused workers who misunderstood instructions, and that it should be worked out shortly. Still, he said, “I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred. This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

Hearing to take place on Brooklyn scandal…

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

From the New York Daily News:

BY MICHAEL MCAULIFF

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee has set a hearing into the Brooklyn Census office that dummied up thousands of questionnaires, prompting the firing of two managers and do-overs for 10,000 family surveys.

edtowns.jpg

Rep. Ed Towns, whose district is next door to the Northeast Brooklyn Census office that used the Internet and phone books to fill out forms, set the hearing for July 19 in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

“Given my commitment to the success of the 2010 Census, this recent problem is particularly troubling,” said Towns, who ironically held an earlier hearing in the very census office that later became a problem.

“Any attempt to compromise the integrity of the census is simply unacceptable given what is at stake for our community,” Towns said of the shenanigans first reported by the Daily News. “I am holding this hearing to ensure that the Census Bureau is following all of the necessary steps to accurately count every resident in Brooklyn.”

Among those invited to testify are Census Director Robert Groves, Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser, and Tony Farthing, the census regional director.

New #Census report from the Inspector General…

Monday, June 14th, 2010

It’ s only four pages and the last part of the report consists of recommendations based on problems highlighted earlier. Please post your comments below. Given how critical this report is, we can only imagine how scathing the next full report from the Inspector General will be.

http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/2010/OAE-19893-01.pdf

MyTwoCensus analysis:

1. Respondents are facing additional burdens because questionnaires are not being handled properly. The report doesn’t go far enough in criticizing the Census Bureau for creating a system whereby sensitive data is just laying around for long periods of time , thereby compromising the data’s confidentiality.

2. As has been discussed in recent weeks on MyTwoCensus.com, there are no guidelines that state whether enumerators can use the Internet to determine proxy information. A memo was sent out about this a couple of weeks ago, informing field workers not to use the Internet, but it is unknown whether this memo reached everyone. Either way, it was sent way too late in the operation to be effective as most enumerators are likely already set in their ways of tracking people down.

3. That 1/3 of interviews were proxy interviews is an unacceptably high figure.

4. Enumerators should never have to give out their personal phone numbers unless they are being compensated by the government or have this written into their contract as part of their job description.

CNSNews.com Inspector General’s Memo: Census Says It Hired More Workers Than It Needed As a ‘Cost-Saving Measure’

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Interesting article from CNS News (click HERE for full article):

The U.S. Census purposefully hired more workers than it needed, telling the Office of the Inspector General of the Commerce Department that it did so as a “cost-saving measure,” according to a memorandum that Todd J. Zinser of the inspector general’s office sent to Census Bureau Director Robert Groves last week.

“According to Census,” said Zinser’s May 26 memo to Groves, “‘frontloading’ its workforce (i.e. hiring and training more enumerators than necessary to offset turnover) is a cost-saving measure.” The inspector general’s memo, however, suggested that in at least one Census Bureau operation excessive staff had increased the “cost of operations” and that in another operation deployment of an unnecessarily large number of workers ”increased the operation’s direct labor and travel costs.”

In the first quarter of this year (January-March), personnel from the inspector general’s office observed Census Bureau operations in four programs. These included “update/leave” (U/L), in which Census workers deliver questionnaires to homes that would not be reached by ordinary mail service; “update/enumerate” (U/E), which counts people in communities where the homes lack ordinary mailing addresses or street names; “enumeration at transitory locations” (ETL), which counts people at places where their residences are potentially mobile, such as recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds, marinas and carnivals; and “service-based enumeration” (SBE), which counts homeless people at places such as homeless shelters, mobile food vans and so-called “targeted non-sheltered outdoor locations” (TNSOL).

The inspector general’s memo said that the Census Bureau had “overestimated” the staff needed for the program to enumerate people at transitory locations. “During the ETL operation,” said the memo, “crew leaders overestimated the number of Census staff needed to enumerate transitory locations, thus increasing the cost of operations.”

The memo also said that there were so many people hired for the “service-based enumeration” that there turned out to be one Census enumerator for every seven homeless people counted, and that the inspector general’s office “observed significant periods of enumerator inactivity at certain locations.”

“In another operation [which the inspector general’s office confirmed to CNSNews.com was the SBE program],” said the memo, “we found many enumerator teams to be unnecessarily large—an average ratio of one enumerator for just seven homeless respondents. We observed significant periods of enumerator inactivity at certain locations, which increased the operation’s direct labor and travel costs.”

As a result of these problems, the inspector general suggested that the Census bureau should “reevaluate” frontloading—that is, the practice of hiring more enumerators than necessary to cover anticipated turnover. “Census should reevaluate its practice of frontloading and develop a better process to estimate workload and cost assumptions,” said the memo. “A more streamlined enumeration process could reduce training and travel costs and be more responsive to changing economic conditions.”

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.

Recommendations from the Inspector General’s Office

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, we posted the Inspector General’s Quarterly Report to Congress on the 2010 Census. Here are some updated recommendations from Todd Zinser, the Inspector General of the Commerce Department, in a memo to Census Director Robert M. Groves:

Recommendations:

Given the challenges involving PBOCS and the lack of time remaining in the schedule, Census should realign PBOCS development and testing, placing greater emphasis on minimizing the impact of the system’ s limitations during operations. We recommend that you ensure that the following actions are taken:

• senior executives with the authority to set priorities – s u c h as reallocating resources to where they are most needed, resolving conflicting priorities, and making major changes to the decennial schedule or plan – - closely monitor PBOCS activities and act to expeditiously reduce operational risk;

• streamline development and testing by further reducing PBOCS capabilities to the essentials needed for the most important enumeration operations;

• focus on developing standardized procedural workarounds for PBOCS capabilities that cannot be implemented to support operations; and

• enhance technical support staff and procedures to expeditiously resolve problems in the field.

To improve cost containment efforts for future operations, we also recommend that you ensure that Census Bureau management develops effective internal controls over wage, travel, and training costs and scrupulously follows these controls.


The 2010 Census: Update of Schedule, Cost, Risk Management, and Communications Activities

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Here’s some testimony from yesterday’s Senate Subcommittee hearing:

The 2010 Census: Update of Schedule, Cost, Risk Management, and Communications Activities [PDF]

Inspector General Todd J. Zinser before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security

Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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.”

Highlights of the Inspector General’s Latest Report…

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Here are what we think are some of the most important findings of the Inspector General’s recent report:

- The 2010 Census is currently estimated to cost approximately $14.7 billion, reflecting an increase of $3.2 billion over the last 2 years. For this fiscal year, spending on the 2010 Census will total $7.4 billion.

- The ELCOs’ (Early Local Census Offices) production wage costs were 45–186 percent of their budgets and for production mileage they were less than one percent to 250 percent of their budgets. For the quality control phase of the operation, ELCOs’ wage costs were 68–439 percent of their budgets and for mileage were less than one percent to 878 percent of their budgets.

- During the period between January and July 2009, which encompassed the Address Canvassing operation, some employees claimed nearly 3.9 million miles driven at the higher rate, resulting in excess payments of approximately $136,000.

- 604 employees spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work, and of those, 23 employees spent 100 percent or more
of their time driving.

- 15,263 employees received training but worked for less than a single day or did not work at all. Of these employees, 10,235 did not work at all but earned approximately $3.4 million for attending training. An additional 5,028 employees completed training, at a cost of $2.2 million in wages, but worked for less than a single day.

Digest all of that for a while and there will be more to come…

BREAKING NEWS FROM THE AP: Audit finds 2010 Census preparations wasted millions

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
H/t to Hope Yen and the Associated Press for the following piece. Of course we are already trying to obtain this complete document to find out the details of exactly what happened…but at the same time, none of this should come as a shock since we’ve been reporting on many examples of blatant waste at the Census Bureau for the past year…
UPDATE: This report from the Commerce Department Inspector General’s Office is now available to the public HERE.

By HOPE YEN (AP) –

WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau wasted millions of dollars in preparation for its 2010 population count, including thousands of temporary employees who picked up $300 checks without performing work and others who overbilled for travel costs.

Federal investigators caution the excessive charges could multiply once the $15 billion headcount begins in earnest next month unless the agency imposes tighter spending controls, according to excerpts of a forthcoming audit obtained by The Associated Press.

On a positive note, investigators backed the Census Bureau’s decision to spend $133 million on its advertising campaign, saying it was appropriate to boost public awareness. The spending included a $2.5 million Super Bowl spot that some Republicans had criticized as wasteful.

The findings by Todd Zinser, the Commerce Department’s inspector general, highlight the difficult balancing act for the Census Bureau as it takes on the Herculean task of manually counting the nation’s 300 million residents amid a backdrop of record levels of government debt.

Because the population count, done every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and billions in federal aid, many states are pushing for all-out government efforts in outreach since there is little margin for error — particularly for Democratic-leaning minorities and the poor, who tend to be undercounted. At the same time, the national headcount will employ 1 million temporary workers and is the most expensive ever, making it a visible sign of rising government spending.

The federal hiring has been widely touted by the government as providing a lift to the nation’s sagging employment rate — but investigators found it also had waste.

The audit, scheduled to be released next week, examined the Census Bureau’s address-canvassing operation last fall, in which 140,000 temporary workers walked block by block to update the government’s mailing lists and maps.

While the project finished ahead of schedule, Census director Robert Groves in October acknowledged the costs had ballooned $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent. He cited faulty assumptions in the bureau’s cost estimates.

Among the waste found by investigators:

_More than 10,000 census employees were paid over $300 apiece to attend training for the massive address-canvassing effort, but they quit or were otherwise let go before they could perform any work. Cost: $3 million.

_Another 5,000 employees collected $300 for the same training, and then worked a single day or less. Cost $1.5 million.

_Twenty-three temporary census employees were paid for car mileage costs at 55 cents a mile, even though the number of miles they reported driving per hour exceeded the total number of hours they actually worked.

_Another 581 employees who spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work also received full mileage reimbursements, which investigators called questionable.

Census regional offices that had mileage costs exceeding their planned budgets included Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City and Seattle.

Most of the nation will receive census forms in mid-March, and the Census Bureau is asking residents to return them by April. For those who fail to respond, the government will dispatch some 700,000 temporary workers to visit homes in May.

In response to cost overruns, Groves has said he would work to prevent expenses from ballooning further and reevaluate budget estimates for the entire census operation. He has made clear his goal of returning tens of millions of dollars to government coffers by motivating more U.S. residents to mail in their form, which avoids costly follow-up visits by census takers.

As to the Super Bowl ads, Republicans including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the $2.5 million purchase, which included two 30-second pregame spots, on-air mentions and a 30-second ad during the third-quarter.

The ads, featuring Ed Begley Jr. humorously extolling a new project called a “Snapshot of America,” was widely panned as weak and ineffective by media critics.

“There is a general move in the United States toward more government involvement in the economy. Seeing the U.S. Census spot gives us little confidence that this is going to solve our issues,” blogged Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker, both marketing professors at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

The inspector general’s report said the census advertising was consistent with the government’s goals of boosting participation in the count. The agency has said that if 1 percent of Super Bowl viewers change their minds and mail in their form, it will save taxpayers $25 million to $30 million in follow-up costs.

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