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Spin Control

Tue., March 13, 2012, 7:12 p.m.

Phoning in some state savings

OLYMPIA – And you thought you were paying too much for your cell phone.
The state found ways to save about $1.7 million this biennium by turning in thousands of cell phones that state agencies were using very little or not at all, and switching thousands more to cheaper plans.
Last November, the state auditor’s office said it studied the use and costs of some 22,000 cell phones that employees of various state agencies had over nearly two years, and the various contracts that cover them. . .

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No one is sure exactly how many cell phones the state pays for, but the auditor’s office estimated it studied about 80 percent.
Nearly a third were used infrequently, and more than 2,000 weren’t used at all. Of the ones that were used, many were on the wrong plans and could be shifted to cheaper or pre-paid plans.
Gov. Chris Gregoire had ordered managers to review cell phone use in September, while the audit was underway, and they’d recommended getting rid of 1,887 phones even before the report came out. She ordered another search for savings when budget news took a turn for the worse in November, and agencies came up with another 1,563 they could do without.
They also found nearly 3,000 phones that could be moved to cheaper plans.
The Department of Social and Health Services gave up 1,113 phones. Department of Corrections gave up 430 phones and shifted 547 more to cheaper plans. The governor’s office gave up 11 phones.
The auditor’s office had 25 phones it didn’t need, generating a savings of about $25,504. The Associated Press reported late last month that even Auditor Brian Sonntag gave up a phone, which he’d been issued and only used for 10 minutes over 16 months.
In announcing the savings, Gregoire said the state will continue to monitor cell phone costs and usage, and look for “technological efficiencies in other areas.”

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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