GAO EXPERTS VERIFY NEED BEHIND BUREAU'S REQUEST FOR $4.5 BILLION TO CONDUCT 2000 CENSUS

Sep 28, 1999
Press Release
  • On September 22, 1999 the GAO released a report which verified the accuracy of the Census Bureau's financial plan for the 2000 Census.

  • With less than 200 days until Census Day 2000, the Census Bureau needs to buy advertising time, and recruit and interview over 3 million prospective employees in order to hire 860,000 enumerators to actually do the Census. The Bureau needs and deserves funding which is adequate consistent, and predictable.

  • The GAO found the Census Bureau to be helpful, open, and meticulous in sharing information. They that the Census Bureau has crafted itself a smart, timely, and conservative plan for operating the 2000 Census.

Summary of GAO Findings

The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) last week issued a report on the increased cost of Census 2000 following a Supreme Court decision that forced the Census Bureau to revise its plan. The analysis examines the extra $1.7 billion the Bureau requested in fiscal year 2000 (FY00) to conduct a traditional census, without sampling methods, for purposes of congressional apportionment. The Bureau's original FY00 budget request was for $2.8 billion; it revised the Census 2000 plan after the Supreme Court ruled in January that federal law barred the use of sampling to produce the population totals used for congressional apportionment.

GAO auditors found that the $1.7 billion requested cost increase "resulted primarily from changes in assumptions relating to a substantial increase in workload, reduced employee productivity, and increased advertising." They noted that the Bureau expected to visit 46 million instead of 30 million unresponsive households under the revised plan. New quality control programs, such as re-interviewing a sample of households, also added to the cost. Overall, the expected workload increase resulted in higher cost estimates for salaries and benefits, travel, data processing, supplies, and infrastructure requirements (such as office space and telephone capacity). The Bureau's revised budget request for FY00 also includes an extra $72 million for more advertising, which it hopes will increase public awareness and voluntary response. The GAO reported that a 20 percent reduction in assumed productivity for enumerators - from 1.28 to 1.03 households per hour - contributed substantially to the added cost.

In a letter to the GAO commenting on a draft of the report, Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said the productivity assumptions "represent prudent management," citing "an unyielding calendar" and a "mail response rate [that] is largely out of our control." Overall, the Bureau concurred with the information set forth in the GAO study. In a statement issued after the study was released, Dr. Prewitt said, "I can report to the American public that we have the budget right, our plan is launched, and we are on schedule and on track for Census 2000." He called on Americans to "take ownership of this census" to produce the most accurate and cost-effective count possible. According to the Bureau's written statement, GAO found that only $104 million, or six percent, of the $1.7 billion cost increase was not related to the prohibition on sampling for congressional apportionment purposes.

Prepared by the Democratic Staff of the Government Reform Committee