"Intellectually dishonest" is the way one member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission describes a new study identifying ways that the agency could save $8.4 million over the next three years.
The study is one of the series released by the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, a privately funded task force organized by President Reagan to identify waste in government programs. Among its recommendations for the CPSC, the task force said the agency should:
* Reorganize its management structure, which now has "an excessive number of administrative and supervisory personnel." The CPSC now "has approximately one manager for every 2.5 professionals," the study found, and in one section a supervisor for every staff professional. By eliminating managerial positions below the division level and making other structural changes, the CPSC could save about $2.8 million.
* Eliminate some of the administrative staff, which the task force said is "top-heavy" compared with other federal agencies. The CPSC could save $2.9 million, the report said, by abolishing 22 of the 49 front-office positions.
* Consolidate offices in one facility in Bethesda, to save $690,000. The CPSC now has some offices and a hearing room in downtown Washington and staff offices in Bethesda.
* Switch from a time-sharing computer service to an in-house computer facility, saving $1 million.
* Explore closing its field offices while increasing the number of so-called resident posts, which are smaller offices at the local level. No estimate of savings was made.
The report said that CPSC Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts supported eliminating the regional offices--a statement that agency insiders said created a "mini-tempest" among commissioners who worry that continued manpower and money cuts are crippling the agency.
But Steorts said the report misquoted her position. "That is inaccurate. I have been a major advocate of the field offices, which are the implementing arms of this agency. I think we need more presence in the field rather than less presence."
The chairman said she couldn't comment further until she had more time to study the report.
But Commissioner Stuart M. Statler said, "I don't think the report is any great shakes."
"They concentrated mostly on money-saving issues," he added. "And in some ways, it struck me as intellectually dishonest . . . . They made recommendations almost scattershot about eliminating this aspect or that . . . without giving consideration to how to continue the program."
Statler said the task force appeared to be "so intent on figuring ways to get down on paper the maximum amount of money they could save that they give short shrift to the reality of the situation, . . . to the negative effect that that could have on the functioning of the agency."
Commission staff members agreed that the CPSC is top-heavy with management.
"But a large part of that occurred because of the rifs, which resulted in the loss of a lot of junior people and left us with a lot of senior managers," said one staffer. He said this situation exists with other federal agencies, "except it is worse here because we had bigger rifs--we are down to about 610 people, from around 900."TCIVIL PENALTIES . . . One of the most important provisions in the CPSC reauthorization bill now pending in the Senate would have clarified and strengthened the agency's power to impose civil penalties on companies that fail to report defective products. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) opposed that provision and got the bill held up. The provision has since been stricken.