Cell Phone Mismanagement Costs Oregon Taxpayers at Least $588,000

A recent report by the Oregon Secretary of State Audit Division questions the efficiency of state cell phone use. Of $3.1 million charged to the state for cell phones, the report found $588,000 of waste during a one-year period for unused and overused cell phones.

According to the report, “Charges did not appear consistent with efficient business”¦.[I]mproved practices would result in cost savings.”

Included in the audit data were all state agencies, state boards and commissions, public universities, OHSU and the SAIF Corporation. The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) has contracted AT&T, Sprint and Verizon as cell phone vendors for these agencies. For the purpose of identifying problem areas and recommendations the audit reviewed three agencies in detail: the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Department of Corrections (DOC).

As calculated by the Audit Division, unused cell phones alone cost Oregon Taxpayers $318,000.

Of the $318,000, DHS accounted for 28 percent or $88,000, and ODOT $36,000 or 11 percent.

It is important to note that this analysis was only performed for AT&T and Sprint and did not represent the full cost of unused cell phones. If the third vendor, Verizon, were included in the analysis, the waste would be even higher.
Overage charges were $270,000 and accounted for the rest of the $588,000. The overage analysis was based on individual plans with patterns of going over the allotted minutes per month, thus excluding occasional overage charges.

This analysis was conducted solely on AT&T. With the inclusion of the other two vendors in the overage analysis, the amount of waste surely would increase.

DHS was again the largest perpetrator of wasted taxpayer money with $89,000, or 33 percent of the overage charges; and ODOT was a distant second with $17,000, or 6.3 percent.

Assuming that each vendor contract had similar patterns in both unused cell phones and overage charges, total government waste on cell phones could be around $1.3 million. Numerous examples of obvious and neglectful cell phone mismanagement are cited in the report. Take for example a DHS worker who had a flat rate plan costing $9.99 per month and 11 cents a minute. This worker used an average of 1,400 minutes costing $180 a month. That’s an 80 percent premium over AT&T’s consumer unlimited talk plan at a cost of $100.

Another DHS mismanagement example was a cell phone with $2,300 in charges in just one year. In one month alone charges reached $1,200. This is a huge red flag. To top it off, the user of this phone had already terminated employment with DHS before the charges were made!

The report found that a lack of oversight was the cause of the wasted taxpayer money. There was an absence of adequate review of high use and low use cell phone reports by DHS and DOC. When discussing the agency review practices of utilization reports, the audit report states, “Our analysis indicated that, with the exception of ODOT, a sufficient review did not occur.” These reports are readily available and part of the DAS contract with all three vendors. Had these reports been effectively reviewed, inefficiencies could have been identified, and waste could have been avoided.

In addition to the lack of review, it was found that the agencies were failing to follow state rules. Inventory tracking as required by the state was incomplete or nonexistent for all three agencies.

“We found that none of three agencies had an accurate cell phone inventory.”

These agencies failed to track cell phones assigned to employees as evidenced by the examples of missing cell phones. Although DHS and ODOT have forms to track cell phone assignments, they were not being used consistently. DHS could only produce 4 of the 42 requested forms for the audit and ODOT 14 of 29.

Responses to the audit can be found in the back of the audit report. All three agencies have agreed with the findings and have either completed or begun recommendations. We must applaud the Audit Division for their excellent work and the positive response from ODOT, DHS and DOC. Although this may seem like good government at work, we must not forget that these three agencies only represent 38 percent of the state’s charges for AT&T and Sprint, and that compliance to audit recommendations is voluntary for all state agencies.

The question taxpayers must ask themselves is: If something as simple as cell phone bills can be mismanaged, where else is money being wasted?


Charts associated with this article are available here.


Jacob Szeto is Investigative Reporter at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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  • Rupert in Springfield

    So lets see:

    If the average Oregonian makes $35,000 per year (a guess) and pays 9% in taxes (ok I am leaving off deductions, but they also pay property taxes above the 9%) that comes out to $3150 per year in taxes.

    So, lets divide the waste, $588,000, by the $3,150 to find out how many tax payers paid taxes all year long only to have it thrown away.

    Hmmm… that comes out to 186 taxpayers.

    Wow, so 186 taxpayers were needed just to pay the waste. The over three weeks they worked to pay that bill (figure 250 working days multiplied by 9%, that gives you 22.5 days) was just thrown away. Wonder how they would feel about that?

    Always best to think in terms of how many tax payers got ripped off rather than the actual dollar figure. It starts putting the numbers in perspective a little better.

    • Steve Plunk

      Isn’t that the truth about perspective. As they say ‘a million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money’. The state bureaucrats seem to have lost all perspective while we struggle to pay our bills.

  • eagle eye

    So let’s see:

    An audit (claimed) to have found $588,000 in waste due to inadequate monitoring of cell phone use.

    So, how much did the audit cost? And what will be the cost of monitoring the cell phone use? And what fraction of the “waste” will be eliminated? And what will be the cost of the monitoring? And how many employees will be tasked with this work? And how much time of existing employees will be taken up with this urgent task? A net savings or loss?

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >So, how much did the audit cost?

      It was done by the SOS office which is charged with this task. They either have staff to do this or money budgeted to perform the task. Personally I feel if we have an office in charge of this maybe the people there should actually be doing the job. Your mileage obviously varies.

      >And what will be the cost of monitoring the cell phone use?

      The cost would be zero above existing costs..

      Simply have the SOS do the same thing next year.

      Have them go back, see if things have changed. If the same departments have the same level of waste and didn’t implement the recommended changes, fire those in charge.

      >And what fraction of the “waste” will be eliminated?

      Probably none on the first go round. State employees have zero responsibility.

      However, it would be a good illustration of why state employees complaints of not being paid the same ad their private counterparts should be met with little but laughter. there simply isn’t anywhere near the responsibility in government work.

      >And what will be the cost of the monitoring?

      Zero, the SOS apparently already has auditors or budgets to hire them. I didn’t hear about a bond measure that passed to get funds for this audit, did you?

      >And how many employees will be tasked with this work?

      Id leave that up to the SOS office. They did pretty good this time around.

      > And how much time of existing employees will be taken up with this urgent task?

      God knows. But if your job is to audit state agencies, is asking you to spend some of the time you are paid for on your actual job now too much to ask in your opinion?

      >A net savings or loss?

      Looks like if all the waste was eliminated it would add up to $588,000. That was lined out pretty clearly in the article. Obviously eliminating all waste is unrealistic, but since the SOS already has staff or budget to perform the audits then the amount saved would range from $0 to $588,000 depending on how well managers cracked down on this nonsense.

      • eagle eye

        Gee, Rupert, you’re a genius, maybe you should ask the governor to appoint you to clean up the mess.

        Your faith in the auditors is touching, especially for someone who can say:

        “State employees have zero responsibility.”

        • Steve Plunk

          Eagle? Is snark replacing logic? Rupert’s correct in his analysis. Explaining away waste by the state at any level is silly. I wonder if I paid my taxes short by $588,000 if the state would accept my explanations or excuses?

          • eagle eye

            When he leads with crap like

            “State employees have zero responsibility.”

            it’s perfectly reasonable to respond with a little snark.

            And no, his “analysis” is not correct, it’s not “logical”, it’s idiotic. For all the reasons I gave.

          • Joe Jericho

            Check this…in my department, no one is accountable. There is an employee who has been absent from work for more than half of the last 3 year period. So what happens to her? Nothing. And when she is at work, she is working from home and no one knows where she is or what she does. And she rarely turns in work. Occasionally, a manager asks her to turn in her work and she doesn’t do it. Know what happens to her? Nada, zilch. And if you go in her office, you might find her arguing on the phone with her wife (that’s right) or lying on the floor. UnREAL! Do not lecture anyone here about State employees. You don’t have a clue.

          • Anonymous

            I think you’re full of shit.

          • Steve Plunk

            Another well reasoned and fully articulated response from the pro tax side of the debate.

          • Anonymous

            Pro tax? What does Joe Jericho’s BS have to do with taxes?

          • Steve Plunk

            My comment was directed toward Anonymous 11:09. Joe’s pointing out state waste. I assume the potty mouthed commenter is pro tax. I could be wrong.

          • joe jericho

            You can think whatever you want, whatever makes you feel good. It’s happening. These people are union employees. It’s nearly impossible to fire them. The managers are inept and I understand they are trying to figure out what if anything they can do. Meanwhile, nothing changes and this particular work doesn’t get done. If I told you the nature of her work and what she is not getting done, you would be beyond ticked off that the state is letting this slide. I picked up her slack for much of the time she was gone, the ungrateful employee that she is. But for some reason, state managers are mostly just letting her work slide. It’s ugly. But if it makes you feel better to be in denial about it, then go ahead. You get what you pay for. That’s all I have to say about it.

          • Anonymous

            “You can think whatever you want, whatever makes you feel good.”

            I will think whatever I want, thank you, though it doesn’t “make me feel good”. I simply don’t believe you. If there is any truth to your tale I’m guessing you’re leaving out essential details. Was she on medical leave? Maternity leave? What does this say about you, that you are witness to this incompetence (not to mention the one who has to pick up her slack, therefore the “victim” of it as well) and you do nothing about it? You’re union as well then, are you not? Why don’t you file a grievance with your union rep?

            “You get what you pay for. That’s all I have to say about it.”

            What does that mean? Should we increase state salaries to attract more competent responsible employees?

          • Anonymous

            I didn’t do anything about it? I did extra work to carry the department, more than I was asked to do. You can be as non-appreciative as you want. I am used to that in my work setting already. In fact, we all are, so keep bringing it. So, what do you want me to do, fall on the sword for the do-nothing employee? I am not the problem, jackass. I already told you that management refuses to do anything about it. She took some FMLA at one point. You know what that gets you? 3 months of leave at the fed level with a possible 6 months total at the state level. Worker has been gone for more than half of the last three years. You don’t see a problem there? Of course you don’t because you are a freaking idiot and don’t know what you are talking about. So keep believing what you believe, jackass. You’d obviously rather have your head in the sand. Anything to defende the STATE! I am on the inside. I am in a position to know. The STATE sucks and is full of apathetic and incompetent employees. And the people who are supposed to do something about it, don’t do crap, and neither do their bosses. Dismiss it all you want, it’s the truth. This is why I laugh when people say the STATE can cut no further. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet everyday I do what I can to get my work done, and I get it done fast. Of course, aholes like you really motivate me to work even harder and fix the problems of your POS state. After all, it is your state. It ain’t mine. I ain’t from here, jackass. Now shut up and cut the check. LMAO.

          • Anonymous

            “I didn’t do anything about it? I did extra work to carry the department, more than I was asked to do.”

            Perhaps in your own mind you did? Though I doubt it.

            “You can be as non-appreciative as you want. I am used to that in my work setting already. In fact, we all are, so keep bringing it.”

            You’re on the wrong blog if you’re looking for sympathy.

            “So, what do you want me to do, fall on the sword for the do-nothing employee? I am not the problem, jackass. I already told you that management refuses to do anything about it.”

            I don’t care what you do. What would I do? I’d tell my boss and my union rep to correct the situation or not expect to keep me around. If they didn’t do anything about it (as you say), I’d keep my word and leave.

            “She took some FMLA at one point.”

            A-ha! A little bit of truth.

            “You know what that gets you? 3 months of leave at the fed level with a possible 6 months total at the state level. Worker has been gone for more than half of the last three years. You don’t see a problem there?”

            I see a huge problem with that. I wouldn’t tolerate it if I were you.

            “Of course you don’t because you are a freaking idiot and don’t know what you are talking about. So keep believing what you believe, jackass. You’d obviously rather have your head in the sand. Anything to defend the STATE!”

            Buddy, you are an employee of the state. Am I defending you or am I typically non-appreciative of your hard work? You can’t have it both ways.

            “I am on the inside. I am in a position to know. The STATE sucks and is full of apathetic and incompetent employees. And the people who are supposed to do something about it, don’t do crap, and neither do their bosses. Dismiss it all you want, it’s the truth.”

            Ummm… okay?

            “This is why I laugh when people say the STATE can cut no further. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

            I don’t recall saying “the state can cut no further”, and agree that few things could be further from the truth (i.e. you’re screaming at the wrong dude).

            “Yet everyday I do what I can to get my work done, and I get it done fast.”

            So, you do your job then? Good for you. We’re all very proud of you.

            “Of course, aholes like you really motivate me to work even harder and fix the problems of your POS state. After all, it is your state. It ain’t mine. I ain’t from here, jackass.”

            You work for DHS? I always figured they’d do some kind of psych screening during their hiring process. Guess not.

            “Now shut up and cut the check.”

            Gladly. So long as I don’t have to do your apparently miserable work.

            “LMAO.”

            Who are you kidding, guy? You haven’t laughed in years. You are a miserable, whiny little dweeb who hates his life, lacks the assertiveness necessary to prevent himself from being exploited at work, and gets his rocks off by talking tough on blogs like this one. Best of luck, loser.

          • Anonymous

            Sounds to me like he’d kick your ass if given the chance. Funny stuff.

          • eagle eye

            Joe — I have no idea whether your story is true or not. If it is, why do you stay in that office/agency?

            I can assure you, plenty of state employees have lots of responsibility. I dealt with one recently — in a delicate and pressing public safety matter — and believe me, he was very helpful.

          • Anonymous

            It’s a complex issue and one that involves government at the fed, state and local level. And recently I had a chance to leave the state, but the economics of the world kept me here (housing prices).

  • создание бесплатного форума

    COMMENT_DELETED

    • Joe Jericho

      Закройте вверх и пойдите назад к Советскому Союзу, вам коммунист идиота!

  • retired UO science prof

    eagle eye, you mean you sometimes use less than your quota of phone calls? You sometime go over? Shame on you!

    • Steve Plunk

      It’s funny to see people make excuses for waste. What next? Excuse fraud?

      • eagle eye

        Really? If someone uses less than their cell phone quota at work, they’re wasting money? Or they make extra calls, that’s a waste too? That’s just plain silly.

        • Steve Plunk

          More excuses? The auditors determined there was waste. What part of that is not clear?

          • eagle eye

            You have such confidence in the judgment and motives of the state auditors!

            Do you always have such confidence when the state inspectors come around your business?

          • Steve Plunk

            Can’t win can I? I either put 100% confidence in the government or 0%? Start being reasonable. You’re sounding increasingly irrational.

          • eagle eye

            I didn’t mention percentages. Are you hallucinating? Or did I somehow hit a sore spot?

    • Joe Jericho

      Speaking of Eugene, I’ve had the misfortune of working in Eugene on temporary duty on two seperate occasions. That town is so messed up, that I refused to go back. I told my manager that he better go down there and un**** the situation. He refuses. Doesn’t want the conflict. Doesn’t want results. This state is the do-nothing state. It’s awful here. Enjoy your pension, hoser.

      • eagle eye

        You do work at the U of O? You know so much about the good retired prof? Oh, I see from below you work at DHS.

      • retired UO science prof

        Joe, you really refused to do your assigned duties because you didn’t want to be in Eugene? Then your supervisor owes it to the rest of us to fire you. And you so say it’s so awful in Oregon? Then leave!

        My experience at UO was that most of the workers were pretty highly motivated. Certainly the support staff in my department. There was nobody lying on the floor doing nothing. If there had been, they would have been out. In fact, one guy was dismissed for problems and misbehavior I won’t go into. He was a union member, too.

        Enjoy my pension? You bet. I earned it. And of course, it was part of the deal that was offered and which I accepted when I moved here from another state at another university. In fact, I took a pay cut to move here. So I don’t feel in the least bad about my good pension.

        • Anonymous

          BS, old man. Here’s the way it went down. The locals down there are aholes. I told my guy that if he didn’t do anything about it, I would. He didn’t want me to deal with it, so I said don’t bother sending me back, or I will file that grievence that you dicks discuss above. lol, I never file grievances. I deal with my own problems. Regarding your pension, don’t feel bad about it, but leave the current problems to young guys like me. You are past your day, and you should be glad to be done with it. Quit hanging around like a rotten piece of fruit that won’t fall off the true.

  • Anonymous

    We obviously need more public employees to track what public employees do.

  • Diamond Jim

    State employees are people. People make mistakes.
    I say it is just a drop in the bucket.
    This waste would not happen if they all had unlimited plans.
    They need cell phones or the work of the people would never be done.
    I don’t endorse waste, but I say, let them talk.
    And drive.
    And eat.
    And mail.
    And travel.
    And relax.
    On our dime.
    As they do the people’s work.

  • Joe

    I can see how this could happen. It is hard enough for me to manage one cell phone account with the extra charges and changing rates. Cell phone companies are the kings of bait and switch. A simple solution to the problem is to give the employees a monthly cell phone allowance and make them manage both the resource and the cost. My hunch is that you could reduce the total expense by about 50%. You also would eliminate potential ethics violations by employees as the phone would be theirs and not the States.

  • Joe Jericho

    I have a DHS blackberry from Sprint/Nextel. My department is so mis-managed, incompetent and corrupt that I want nothing to do with it. I even tried to give the damn phone back as I have my own personal blackberry with an unlimited plan. The idiots wouldn’t even respond to me. I still use it from time to time just to prevent it from going into some drawer to gather dust. I’ve been on here before making angry posts about Oregon government. It is because I see it’s operation every day of the working week. It is much worse than any of you even really know. I hate to say that, but it is true. I even brought my Wall St. Journal to a meeting and opened it up before the meeting started (before business hours), and some State jackass had the nerve to lecture me about what I was reading and how it was dangerous for me. I told him to go read his own POS newspaper and I’d worry about mine. He’s lucky I didn’t punch his effin’ face in right there. People in this state need to do a much better job of minding their own effing business.

    • retired UO science prof

      “My department is so mis-managed, incompetent and corrupt that I want nothing to do with it.”

      I have a solution for you. If it’s so bad, get a different job.

      Besides, it sounds like you have a very bad disposition. Punching out a coworker is likely to land you in big trouble. Sounds like your department would be well rid of you.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe that comment makes you feel better. You are clearly one of the many jerkoff state employees who violates the rules on political activities in the work place all day long. Say whatever you want to people. Piss in other people’s cornflakes. Trot out the socialistic state propaganda all day long. But I hear you loud and clear. You think they would be better off without me. I think I would be better off without them. I have a way of effectively doing that in the workplace. So, just shut up and cut the check, buddy. That’s your job at this point.

        • retired UO science prof

          Wow, dude, you sound like one sick puppy. Did they neglect to give you your distemper shot?

          As I thought I had made clear, I’m RETIRED. So I’m not exactly a state employee at this point. What’s your alibi?

          • Joe Jericho

            Then be retired and shut the hell up about it. I am done. It’s people like you that have this state in the pinch it is in. Always demanding more and doing less and less work. You got yours. Time for you to clear out of the way and let others do their thing. The state civil service is a mess. People can either “believe” that or not. I don’t care. It makes no difference to me. I see it every day. I know what it is. I was just reviewing an email where it is clear that some people are being required to do the same thing differently in terms of procedure. Without getting into it, there is clearly procedural violations happening here, but that’s nothing new in my department. It just amazes me that the crap goes on unchecked week after week, month after month, year after year. Some will read my postings and think I am making it all up. Fine. But I got news for you. You couldn’t make up the crap that I see. As always, truth is stranger than fiction. Adios.

          • Joe Jericho

            And since when did old retired UO professors call people “dude”? Strange.

          • Max

            Plus, this idiot is getting a bunch of pers money so he can waste time on this blog.

          • a UO science student

            These guys sound like real sickos. Joe/Anonymous has real anger problems and issues with age. He doesn’t belong anywhere near DHS. I sure wouldn’t want him near a classroom, either. Max, you think professors shouldn’t have pensions? Maybe they should go out with a Will Work for Food sign? And what gives you the right to judge what they do with their retirement?

            There are a bunch of us students at UO who read this stuff here fairly often. You’re not a good advertisement for the conservative cause, that’s for sure.

            I’ll say this, too: some of the profs here are pretty cool dudes. Even some of the retired ones! They’ve helped us out a lot.

          • Diamond Jim

            U of O ROCKS! Except in football.

          • retired UO science prof

            Thanks, student, it’s nice to hear that.

            Students follow this stuff here? I wish there was a better brand of conservatism on offer in Oregon. I feel bad for you with the current political choices. Pretty poor specimens!

            Maybe you can start something!

          • current UO student

            “Students follow this stuff here?”

            Hi prof, another UO student here (not a science major, but was a big fan of Schombert’s AST 123 class).

            “I wish there was a better brand of conservatism on offer in Oregon. I feel bad for you with the current political choices. Pretty poor specimens!”

            The understatement of the new year!

            “Maybe you can start something!”

            Good god, man, never! *LOL* I love myself too much to get involved in politics.

            Though I will say that I’ve been surprised to neither see nor hear any discussion of M66/67 on campus, not even in Lillis. In fact, I mentioned the measures in passing the other day to a finance professor and he basically shrugged them off as inconsequential.

          • retired UO science prof

            Hey man! Glad you liked Schombert’s astronomy class. I know him, a good guy, always seemed to me he’d be good at a class like that, for non-science students. It’s too bad we can’t do more with those classes, big, impersonal. Glad you liked what we do have. Maybe not any better at Harvard, except you’d have an army of teaching assistants and maybe Steven Hawking as a guest lecturer, lol, I’m not kidding, I saw him do that once! Long ago when he was not as sick.

            I’m not too surprised that there’s so little discussion of 66/67 on campus, not too surprised by the finance professor. (By the way, they seem to have their heads screwed on straight in the finance dept, from my experience.)

            For one thing, even the basic operating budget is now funded something like 75% tuition/donations/endowment, mostly tuition; and 25% state subsidy. So even if the higher education budget gets cut by, say 10%, they will only need to jack up tuition about a third of that. That’s at UO, where there’s a large component of out of state tuition; it will be worse at other campuses.

            For another, I just think there’s a sense of resignation, maybe a feeling that maybe UO would be better off if the state support just faded away, at least, just as well off.

            On politics: don’t be so jaded! It needs new and better people, in Oregon God knows, look at the poor choices we have now.

            Actually, as you may know, historically the Republicans have been if anything more supportive of higher education than the Dems, Kevin Mannix for instance. Don’t take these guys here as representative, I think they’re kind of a far-out, angry bunch, bitter about a lot of things, don’t ask me where they’re coming from.

            A bit of testy exchange with me involved in the piece under Boquist. I know nothing about ending balances except locally at the UO, especially in my dept, maybe the finance guys can explain it.

          • I-5 budget balancer

            You say tuition would only go up a little bit, a third of 10% if I read you.

            What if freshman enrollments go up, with no state support for them? What then?

          • retired UO science prof

            A very good point. If enrollments go up — they were way up this year — and the state subsidy is cut, that will mean support per student will decrease. (I won’t even attempt to factor in inflation, increased costs of various kind, etc.)

            Also, the state may decided not to make across the board budget cuts, they may whack higher ed disproportionately, with the idea that tuition will go up more. In other words, in effect make the students help out with the rest of the state budget, in lieu of the taxpayers.

            In these scenarios, tuition will go up more. I’ve heard various estimates of what’s coming, all the way from 3% to 13%. I don’t know what it will be, I don’t think anyone does at this point.

  • Dale Frakes

    These charges are absolutely crazy. One can get a decent pre-paid phone with unlimited minutes, texts, and data, for $45/month. Straighttalk (available from Walmart, using Verizon’s network) is one such phone.

    There is absolutely no excuse for a phone bill over $50, let alone a $1000 one.

  • Anonymous

    Do you people actually think things are any different in business? It is not. People are
    people everywhere and in every job. Most do at least good work. Some are
    super – in government and in business. Some are just parasites. They often
    work for people who are afraid to offend or who, in turn, work for some other coward.
    That’s why people don’t get fired as often as they should. Once they see they
    can get away with it, they simply keep pushing the boundry to see how far they
    can go.

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