It costs 10 cents to dial 411 for telephone information, and employes of the District of Columbia government dial that number about 575,000 times a year.
Carroll B. Harvey, director of the city's Department of General Services, estimates the financially strapped city government could cut $30,000 from its annual $6.7 million telephone bills by reducing the number of information calls to 275,000.
Some District employes, especially in the school system, legitimately need to call information to locate people who have moved or changed phone numbers, Harvey said, but others do it because they are "too lazy" to look up the listings. (The C&P Telephone Co. says 85 percent of all telephone numbers are listed in the directory.)
Harvey reported the telephone-information problem at a press conference last week called to announce the results of a new "operation management system" that has been tried over the past year in several city departments.
Harvey called it a "very simple, very practical" way of controlling costs, and said the experimental system already has pinpointed various ways to effect "at least $13 million in annual savings" for the city government, some of which already have been adopted.
The system actually amounts to little more than orderly analysis and reporting of work/cost ratios, based on monthly assessments of production and the number of hours worked. Harvey said it was developed "at the direction of Mayor Marion Barry, under his comprehensive plan to reduce costs and improve services through management improvements."
Harvey said despite a reduction in the number of city workers, from about 36,000 five years ago to 31,000 today, "the amount of office space we use and the number of vehicles was staying the same, and the number of telephones kept growing." The number of telephone lines used by the District government last year increased by 1,000 to 23,000. Reducing that number by 10 percent, Harvey said, will save another $170,000 a year.
A study of the city's fleet of motor vehicles, he said, revealed that several hundred were more than 10 years old and consumed large quantities of fuel, yet their odometers showed low mileage, indicating infrequent use. As a result of the study, he said, the city's fleet will be reduced this fiscal year by 370 vehicles, to 3,697, at a projected savings of $500,000.
Harvey said "energy audits" of 720 of the 926 city-owned buildings had resulted in changes that would shave $1.8 million from annual utilities costs. Overall, however, the city's energy bill continues to skyrocket -- from $44 million a year ago to an estimated $75 million next year -- because of rising fuel costs, Harvey said.
According to Harvey, the city has saved $8.6 million over the past year by purging the welfare rolls of 7,810 cases in which benefits were being paid by mistake. These people were identified, he said, through "the most stringent corrective procedures."