Census Bureau Says It's Telling All

Thursday, May 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans produced a Census Bureau memo Thursday they said proves the agency is not fully cooperating with Congress on monitoring the count, a claim later denied by the census chief.

The memo, from an unidentified Los Angeles census area manager, instructed lower-ranking officials not to provide certain daily progress reports to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress that is helping oversee the count.

The memo, released by Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., says in part, ``This report must and can not be shared with any GAO representative.''

Miller, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's census panel, said the memo ``severely calls into question the Census Bureau's credibility.'' He said he did not believe it was an isolated decision made by one midlevel manager.

``What documents have been, or will be, hidden from the bright lights of scrutiny?'' Miller said at a hearing Thursday.

In a letter to Miller, Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said there is ``no policy'' at the agency to refuse any information sought by the GAO and that the information in the memo is available to investigators directly, in real time, on a computer system.

Prewitt also said that not all lower-level and midlevel staff ``fully understand our standing policies with respect to oversight and access, and therefore are tasked not to immediately process that request but to report to upper management.''

Republicans have locked horns repeatedly with the Clinton administration over the Census Bureau's use of sampling techniques and comments by some GOP leaders that people should not answer the 53-question long form if they believe it is too intrusive. The count has huge political overtones, including determining districts for state legislatures and Congress and how much federal money flows to different parts of the country.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said Miller was jumping to conclusions in alleging the memo demonstrates some ``vast conspiracy'' to hide information.

Census Bureau spokesman Steve Jost noted that the memo surfaced just before GAO testimony showing that the count response rate of 65 percent is running better than anticipated, halting a three-decade downward slide.

``It's regrettable that the system has to focus on a garbled e-mail message from one of our half-million employees,'' Jost said.


On the Net:

Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov

Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov