After the government announced plans to crack down on abuse of long-distance telephone calls by employes, we ran some letters from feds protesting the Big Brother implications of bosses using computer lists to check on calls that employes make from the office.
But a number of feds believe the crackdown is long overdue. Today's Monday Morning Quarterback letters reflect their concerns that the taxpayers are paying for unnecessary calls:
* "After reading your April 29 column on the proposal to monitor phone use within the federal government, I want to add these comments:
"I worked for the government for many years and found major abuse of the phones. In my office there were abuses galore. Employes called relatives all across the country. The weeks before Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving were times of heavy use for out-of-town calls.
"Several of my staff had children in college all over the country. They used the federal (translate 'taxpayers') phone system to call them each week. I clamped down and incurred the wrath of these 'uncivil servants.' Another action I took was to remove phones from the desks of all clerks and typists. This reduced the phone use significantly.
"I ask those who object (as I asked my staff at the time), 'How would you like your employes to abuse the phone system?' The answer was always, 'Well, this is different. This is the government system and you don't have to pay for it!' Incredible, isn't it?" Signed: A supporter of the Grace Commission's waste-cutting recommendations.
* "In response to the letter from 'Not Laughing' protesting the long-distance phone crackdown , let me say I am not laughing either. But from my experience of 19 years I'm not convinced that supervisors will do anything about it when they are presented with the evidence of phone abuse.
"I know first-hand of a Grade 15 employe who has called his hospitalized mother long distance; conducted a two-year love affair one or two hours per day (including weekends) with phone calls to a western state, not to mention the 'necessary' business trips there; calls to college admissions offices for college-bound children; calls to them after they established residence; calls to out-of-town realtors and financial institutions, just to name a few abuses.
"There is another employe in this agency with 'connections' on Capitol Hill who has been rewarded for 15 years with a secretary to conduct non-government business, free long-distance telephone privileges and free mail service.
"Two high-level employes have done all of the above with full knowledge of their Senior Executive Service-level boss. Rosters of long-distance calls have been available for years, but no one has ever had the courage to blow the whistle. Do I think anything will change under the new tracking system? No way. It is all a free lunch!" Signed: Fed Up Fed at the National Institutes of Health.
* "With all the working mothers who need to call home to see if the baby sitter showed up, etc., would it really warrant the time lost while employes stand in line at pay phones to make those calls? What conclusions has the government reached on this?" D.R.
Finally, from the Would-That-It-Were-So Department, this note from M.S. of Washington:
* "Do the federal 'workers' you pander to know that you are a millionaire? Congratulations on your status achieved through a lifetime of supporting outrageous perceptions by federal drones of their 'underpaid' and 'underbenefited' status."