March 14, 2012 in City

Agencies disconnect wasteful call plans

State was paying for thousands of underused phones
By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – And you thought you were paying too much for your cellphone.

The state found ways to save about $1.7 million this biennium by turning in thousands of cellphones that state agencies were using rarely 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 cellphones that employees of various state agencies had over nearly two years, and the various contracts that covered them. No one is sure exactly how many cellphones the state pays for, but the auditor’s office estimated it studied about 80 percent of them.

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 prepaid plans.

Gov. Chris Gregoire had ordered managers to review cellphone use in September, while the audit was under way, 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. The 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 discontinued 25 phones it didn’t need, generating a savings of about $25,504. The Associated Press reported late last month that Auditor Brian Sonntag gave up a phone that he’d only used for 10 minutes over 16 months.

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