Census Review Finds No Problems

Friday, July 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — An internal review by the Census Bureau found no evidence of fraud or improper procedures committed by Census staffers in 15 offices around the country that were scrutinized by a House Republican, the head of the agency said Friday.

``After a careful review of the operations of each of the offices listed, I find no need for any further action,'' Kenneth Prewitt said at a Census Bureau advisory panel meeting Friday in Arlington, Va. ``None of them are out of line, or show any unusual patterns.''

Prewitt's comments came three days after Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., said a review by his staff of records from the 15 offices raised questions about the quality of work by enumerators trying to track down some of the 40 million households that failed to return a form.

Some offices had ``surges'' of responses very early in that operation, which began April 27, while others had questionable surges toward the end of the operation, said Miller, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's census panel.

Prewitt said he informed Miller by phone Thursday night of the results of the internal review, and would provide a written report to the subcommittee and media next week.

``Since we released our letter and our analysis, there have been more news accounts independent of the subcommittee's work where census enumerators say there was fraud and a rush to finish at the sacrifice of quality,'' Miller's spokesman, Chip Walker, said Friday. Walker said they have received separate letters of complaints from current or former enumerators.

Miller said the questionable offices were in: Florence, Ala.; west Atlanta; Chicago's far south and near north areas; Marion County, Ind.; Las Vegas; Rapid City, S.D.; east Los Angeles, Commerce and Santa Ana, Calif.; Newark, N.J.; the northwest section of the Queens borough of New York City; the Upper East Side in the Manhattan borough of New York City; New Castle, Del.; and north Philadelphia.

The Census Bureau finished follow-up visits to the 40 million households a week before a July 7 deadline. Prewitt says that is mainly because the other 80 million, or 66 percent, of the 120 million forms sent out were returned. The bureau budgeted for a 61 percent response rate this year, so overall, there were more workers available to get cases completed.

The Census Bureau also considers responses collected as close to April 1 as possible to be the most accurate. Census results are officially a ``snapshot'' of the population from that date.

``Our highest priority is to correct any errors in the census,'' said Prewitt, adding that there are 150,000 cases around the country where the Census Bureau has had to revisit homes, including 64,000 in Hialeah, Fla. because of procedural problems. ``To say we need to recount 1 million homes across 15 offices is simply inappropriate, incorrect and unfounded.''

Leslie Framer, 38, said he worked as a census-taker the past three months in Vineland, N.J. and New Castle. He said he informed supervisors in both offices that other Census employees were improperly filling in answers on forms after residents either could not or would not answer them.

``Everything was like rush, rush, rush, and it's not a case where you can rush everything,'' said Framer, who left the job two weeks ago.

Census spokesman Steve Jost said that quality control checks by local, regional and national superiors showed nothing unusual in New Castle.

``There's no evidence of that,'' Jost said. ``We're confident that quality control procedures unknown to enumerators would catch such a problem.''