Document Sample


     A Report on Ulster County’s
 Wireless Telecommunication Devices

                July 30, 2009
                  2009 – 06


Ulster County Information Services (“UCIS”) is responsible for telecommunication services
within the County. In addition to traditional land line services, telecommunication services
also include the use of cellular devices such as BlackBerry® devices and typical cellular
telephones or “cell phones.” Within this report we refer to these devices as “Wireless
Telecommunications Devices” or WTDs.

As of this report, the County maintains three separate carriers to provide service and
support for County WTDs. Multiple providers are necessary as no one of them assure full
coverage throughout the large and geographically diverse County of Ulster. The service
providers are AT&T Mobility, Sprint Wireless, and Verizon Wireless.

AT&T Mobility is the primary carrier of traditional cell phones. Service for these phones is
provided under a “pooled minute” plan. This plan allows the County to purchase a set
amount of minutes each month which are then available for use by all employees in
possession of an AT&T serviced device.

Verizon Wireless and Sprint Wireless provide service for the more technologically advanced
BlackBerry®. These devices are capable of remotely accessing and downloading information
from the Internet, accessing email accounts, sending and receiving text messages and
pictures. In contrast to the “pooled” plan, these plans are individually assigned to the user
by UCIS and include monthly minute allowances, text messaging and data options.


This analysis has been undertaken to evaluate and report as to whether or not: all County
issued WTDs are properly controlled in terms of individual assignment and usage; that
usage meets the needs for which WTDs are retained; to limit for the County risks associated
with broad use of WTDs; and that overall costs to the County are economically managed.

Our objectives are to provide data and analysis that will enable County managers to:

A. Ensure that WTD use is specific to County business;

B. Ensure that employees are aware of the usage policy and understand their
responsibilities when using County devices;

C. Ensure that plans currently used are economical and meet county needs;

D. Ensure proper inventory is kept of all County issued mobile numbers and equipment;

Expanded use of technology over the past decade has transformed the modern business
office from a nine to five, five day work week to one which increasingly operates on a 24/7
(twenty four hours a day, seven days a week) basis. Advances in wireless technology,
specifically in regard to the evolution of the cellular telephone and other like devices, have
been fundamental to this changing world.

Due to the expanded capabilities of WTDs and their increasing prevalence, it is necessary to
periodically review current policies, usage and costs so as to identify areas where
improvements can be made in the context of increased effectiveness and efficiency in the
delivery of County services and in economizing overall costs.

From 1997 to 2008, the annual cost of WTD service in Ulster County government has
increased from $9,300 to approximately $207,895, with an average yearly increase of
36.8% during that period. The following chart illustrates the increasing trend in costs from
1997 to 2008.

                                Yearly Costs of Cell Service





                 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

                               Cost of Wireless Service FACT:
                 Wireless charges increased nearly 40% from 2007 to 2008
                              ($148,702.11 to $207,894.77)

The significance of this increase indicated a need to analyze the methodology and
processes by which the uses of these WTDs are controlled. What follows is our analysis of
the current state of WTD usage and the manners of their control within the County as well as
recommendations where improvements can be made.


This report finds there are a variety of opportunities for improvement regarding the control,
management and expense of WTDs in Ulster County government. Our review was not
intended to draw doubt as to the ability of the County to successfully control the large
number of WTDs it issues, but rather identify any weaknesses as well as offer specific
measures to solidify controls already in existence and provide recommendations for


Ulster County governs the use of technology within the scope of policy and procedure. On
August 1999 the Ulster County Legislature adopted the “Information Technology Security
Policy” (UC Resolution #1999-248) which identifies that all users of County Information
Technology (“IT”) services have a shared responsibility for the security of IT systems and
further covers a variety of policy concerns (see Appendix A).

The County’s Standard Operating Procedures Manual (“SOP”) includes two procedures that
relate to WTD usage. SOP A-2 Long Distance and Personal Telephone Calls (June 6, 2007)
outlines the County’s expectation that personal calls be kept to an “absolute minimum.”
SOP A-4 Acquisition or Modification of Telephone, Pager, Cell Phone Equipment or Service
(July 18, 2007) is limited to the procedure for acquiring cards, equipment or service.

In addition to these policies and procedures, UCIS provides required training on Internet and
technology usage. In this classroom setting County employees and volunteers are taught
acceptable uses of computers and the Internet and are then required to sign the Information
Technology Security Policy.

Based on our research and discussions with UCIS, we find that:

County employees are not required to sign a user agreement related to the use of County-
issued WTD resources.

The County’s policy has not been updated in a decade.

The SOP offers minimal guidance and does not include the County’s policy.

Sixty four individuals have not yet taken their required Internet class some of them as far
back as 2004.

Current, comprehensive and accessible policies and procedures provide guidance to staff
and support them in assuring WTDs are used appropriately in fulfilling their County duties.

As a result of these findings, we recommend:

      The County Legislature review and update the Information Technology Security Policy
       (UC Resolution #1999-248)
      The County Executive review and update Standard Operating Procedures and include
       the Legislature’s policy for ready reference
      UCIS have a standard user agreement to be signed by all individuals issued WTDs
       detailing the specific use of WTD resources including:
                   o Use of devices for County business and not for personal purposes
                   o Agreement that employees will use UCIS equipment in accordance with
                      all laws, rules and regulations of New York State and Ulster County
                      (i.e., not talking on cell phones or text messaging while driving)
                   o Employees may not add or deleted features without UCIS permission or
                   o Reporting loss of equipment to UCIS immediately so as to safe guard
                      County information from corruption or illegal access
                   o The responsibility to maintain call logs in order to comply with legal
                      process documents such as subpoenas for phone records, freedom of
                      information requests, etc.
                   o Statement that this equipment is County-owned and must be
                      surrendered either at the request of UCIS or at the time of an
                      employee’s termination.
                   o That all information maintained on these pieces of equipment are the
                      property of Ulster County
                   o A description of assigned WTD including serial number or other forms
                      of identification
                   o A copy of this agreement is to be kept by the individual and UCIS.


Ulster County’s Information Technology Security Policy states “The County provides all of the
IT (information technology) resources necessary to do the job…the IT manager must be able
to keep track of the IT resources for each department.”

UCIS inventory of all issued equipment is maintained in both electronic and paper files by
department which, in some instances, also includes the names of employees to whom the
equipment was issued. There is uncertainty regarding which individuals are assigned a
certain cell phone because, as explained by UCIS, requests are made by a Department Head
and the name of the employee to whom the phone is issued is not always reported to them.
To ascertain individual names, departments would need to be contacted directly. There is no
single inventory of issued equipment.

The County’s Standard Operating Procedures Manual directs when an employee is
terminated all County property, including IT resources (cell phones, pagers, laptops), are to
be returned to the employee’ s Department Head or designee who will then return the items
to Information Services.

Information Services staff disclosed during an interview that, in the past, cellular devices
have been found months after an employee’s release, some still active with service being
paid for by the County.

Based on our review of current monthly WTD bills we created for this report the following
schedule of WTD distribution by department. There are currently three hundred fifty two
cellular telephones assigned to County employees for governmental purposes. Eighty are
BlackBerry® devices and the remaining two hundred seventy two devices are traditional cell

                Departmental Distribution of County-owned Cellular Devices

                                                  Current Issued Phones
              Assigned Department          AT&T     Verizon Sprint TOTAL
              Social Services               123        0        0       123
              Sheriff                        17        26       0       43
              Probation                      27        10       0       37
              Mental Health                  20        0        0       20
              Health                         14        3        0       17
              District Attorney              0         16       0       16
              Buildings and Grounds          13        1        0       14
              Public Works                   11        0        0       11
              Information Services           2         9        0       11
              Legislature / Personnel        4         4        0        8
              Office of the Aging            7         0        0        7
              Arson Task Force               7         0        0        7
              County Executive               0         1        5        6
              Golden Hill Health Center      5         0        0        5
              Board of Elections             4         0        0        4
              Safety                         3         0        0        3
              UCAT                           3         0        0        3
              Veterans                       3         0        0        3
              Alternative Sentencing         2         0        0        2
              Community Corrections          2         0        0        2
              Comptroller                    0         2        0        2
              Emergency Management           1         0        1        2
              Planning                       0         2        0        2
              County Attorney                1         0        0        1
              County Clerk                   1         0        0        1
              Fire Control                   1         0        0        1
              Public Defender                1         0        0        1
                                                      Grand Total:      352

A comprehensive inventory would assure compliance with County policy; enable
identification of WTDs issued to specific individuals; allow for inspection when necessary;
facilitate reclamation by UCIS of devices no longer needed or in use; and reduce the risk of
financial loss or data corruption due to lost or stolen equipment.

As a result of these findings, we recommend:

      UCIS assemble a single, comprehensive inventory of all County-issued WTDs
      That the inventory be disseminated to the respective departments for (1) verification
       of existing equipment; (2) identification of unused and/or unneeded equipment and
       (3) identification of the individuals to whom each device is assigned
      The County policy be expanded to require Department Heads to provide UCIS with an
       up-to-date record of individual device assignments
      That when a phone is requested by Department Heads for their employees, the SOP
       require the name of the person whom the phone will be assigned to be recorded on
       the request form.


Our review of five months of invoices found a number of mobile numbers not being used as
effectively as intended when assigned by UCIS. AT&T invoices evidenced an average usage
for the five months of five hundred minutes or approximately one hundred minutes per
month. As these phones draw from “pooled minutes,” we looked at the total number of
minutes used over the five month period to see which phones fell below the average.

We found a total of one hundred forty cell phones with a total usage equal to or less than
two hundred minutes. In addition we found that one hundred ten of these phones had a
total usage of less than one hundred minutes, equal to twenty or twenty five minutes of use
a month depending on the length the phone was in service.

Due to underutilization, in the January through May 2009 period the County paid
approximately $9,107 or $0.82 per utilized minute. Had the plan minutes been 100%
utilized, the cost would have been $0.40 per minute based on “pooled” minutes of 22,450
for January through May 2009.

                                 AT&T Cost of Usage FACT:

                           January – May 2009, the County paid
                                     $0.82 per minute
                             as compared to $0.40 per minute
                              had plans been 100% utilized.


Verizon Wireless and Sprint Wireless phones have individual plans which include a set
number of minutes and additional features such as text messaging and data plans. Our
review of the February through June 2009 invoices found that thirty nine of the seventy two
BlackBerry® devices serviced by Verizon used less than 50% of the purchased plan


                       TOTAL                    % OF
      Buildings           0         126          0%       $262.05
    Comptroller          72        1,500         5%       $261.53
    Comptroller          70        1,500         5%       $260.53
  District Attorney     117        1,440         8%       $294.02
  District Attorney      49         600          8%       $195.31
  District Attorney     211        1,800        12%       $326.62
  District Attorney     195        1,200        16%       $207.00
  District Attorney      12        5,000         0%       $470.71
  District Attorney     330        1,200        28%       $216.20
  District Attorney      72        1,200         6%       $207.25
  District Attorney     313        1,200        26%       $216.20
  District Attorney       0        1,200         0%       $207.00
  District Attorney       0        1,200         0%       $207.00
  District Attorney     388        2,250        17%       $406.78
     Executive          968        2,250        43%       $373.28
       Health           397        1,500        26%       $260.53
       Health            55        3,000         2%       $328.83
Information Service       0        1,450         0%       $257.17
Information Service     462        1,500        31%       $335.53
Information Service     538        1,500        36%       $335.53
Information Service       0         600          0%       $149.16
Information Service      41        2,250         2%       $406.78
      Planning          218        1,500        15%       $260.53
     Probation          275        1,500        18%       $387.00
     Probation           88        1,500         6%       $335.53
     Probation          189        1,500        13%       $361.25
     Probation          734        1,500        49%       $362.55
     Probation           86        1,500         6%       $335.53
     Probation          245        1,500        16%       $335.53
     Probation          350        1,500        23%       $361.23
     Probation          564        1,500        38%       $361.23
       Sheriff          522        1,500        35%       $262.10
       Sheriff          569        1,500        38%       $263.28
       Sheriff          170        1,500        11%       $285.28
       Sheriff            8        1,500         1%       $311.98
       Sheriff          709        1,500        47%       $261.03
       Sheriff          104        1,500         7%       $311.93
       Sheriff          582        2,250        26%       $499.68
       Sheriff          359        2,250        16%       $513.58
       TOTALS         10,062      62,466        16%      $11,994.25

                                  Verizon Utilization FACT:

                        Of the 62,466 minutes authorized by County
                                         plans, only
                                 10,062 or 16% were used
                                 over the five month period.

The County paid approximately $11,994 or $1.22 per utilized minute during the five month
period reviewed to provide service for these devices. Had 100% of the minutes been
utilized, the cost would have been $0.19 per minute.

                                Verizon Cost of Usage FACT:

                          February – June 2009, the County paid
                                     $1.22 per minute
                            as compared to $0.19 per minute
                             if plans had been 100% utilized.

A review of the Sprint invoices from January – June 2009 showed five of the six serviced
BlackBerry® devices had use less than 20% of their allotted minutes.

                            SPRINT WIRELESS MINUTE USEAGE

                                  TOTAL                     % OF       TOTAL
                DEPARTMENT        USED     ALLOWANCE        USED      COUNTY
               Emergency Mgmt      332        2,400         14%       $458.93
                 Executive          22        2,400          1%       $471.92
                 Executive         129        2,400          5%       $455.66
                 Executive         139        2,400          6%       $451.33
                 Executive         382        2,400         16%       $451.12
                  TOTALS          1,004      12,000          8%      $2,288.96

                                                                                       - 10 -
                                   Sprint Utilization FACT:

                         Of the 12,000 minutes authorized by the
                        plans, only 1,004 or 8% were used over the
                                     five month period.

These five Sprint serviced phones have cost the County approximately $2,288 or $2.30 per
utilized minute for service from January – June 2009. Had the plans been 100% utilized the
cost would have been $0.19 per minute.

                                 Sprint Cost of Usage FACT:

                           January – June 2009, the County paid
                                      $2.30 per minute
                             as compared to $0.19 per minute
                              if plans had been 100% utilized.

We have seen from our review of the AT&T, Verizon and Sprint invoices that the County is
paying considerable per utilized minute costs for phones. Closer oversight of phone usage
will help identify phones that may no longer be needed and it will enable the selection of
plans appropriate to the use levels of individual phones.

As a result of this finding, we recommend:

      Information Services more closely scrutinize the vendor invoices for areas where
       costs can be reduced by utilizing more appropriate plans.


No text messaging or data plan is included in the current AT&T “pool” plan. As a result, AT&T
serviced phones incur an additional charge above the normal monthly charges whenever an
employee either sends or receives text messages or accesses the mobile internet feature
available on their phone. UCIS reports they attempt to block all AT&T users from accessing
this feature but that charges still occasionally appear. One of the problems encountered at
UCIS in working to manage these accounts is staff authorization with the provider to enable
or block additional services noted on invoices.

                                                                                          - 11 -
The Verizon and Sprint phones have individual text messaging and data plans as part of the
premier functions of BlackBerries®. However, in reviewing the Verizon invoices, we found
one employee consistently had monthly charges in excess of the other phones due to large
amounts of additional usage charges. We found that this employee was using text
messaging and data usage features which his phone plan did not include. Had this device
been set up with a proper text messaging/data plan the County would have saved
approximately $243 over the five month period reviewed.

Diligence in monitoring usage charges can produce cost savings.

We recommend:

      UCIS review all lines and plans to assure they are appropriately matched to the needs
       of the individual using the device. It is important for UCIS to understand the scope of
       work of the individual to whom a WTD is assigned
      UCIS inform individuals of the scope of their plan so each can monitor his or her
       usage and be responsible not to incur excess costs to the County
      UCIS continue to work with providers to block unapproved usage charges from
       occurring on WTDs and authorize account staff to make changes as necessary


The purpose of providing County employees with cellular devices is to allow them to more
easily conduct County business. Per the County’s SOP, cellular devices are to be used for
County business and personal use should be kept to a minimum and confined to pay
phones when appropriate.

Information Services does not currently maintain a database of individual user usage thus
making it difficult to near impossible to recognize uncharacteristic usage which can then be
investigated. Information Services has also stated that it would be too time consuming to
review each individual user’s detailed phone call list to classify calls as either being of a
personal or business nature.

Proper enforcement of restricting personal usage is essential to assure that the County
maintains compliance with current Internal Revenue Service regulations which require
employers to maintain accurate records of employee calls made on employer provided
devices as either being for personal or business purposes. Failure to maintain full accurate
records would have serious negative effects on both the County and employees as it would
call for the collection of additional taxes and possible penalties for compliance failure.

                                                                                         - 12 -
We recommend:

      Vendor detailed invoices be collected and dispersed to the department heads who
       will than require that employees reviews their detailed call logs and identify calls of a
       personal nature. Department heads should then sign off on cellular invoices so as to
       assure that they are indeed being reviewed.
      Upon discovery or disclosure of instances where calls were made for personal
       purposes that employees are made to reimburse the County for the costs associated
       with each instance.
      The above process is initiated as soon as possible, so as to meet current IRS


Cell phone billing overcharges are a major cost management issue. There are not only the
billings to review and the “pools” to manage, but also the plans to negotiate. Nonetheless,
there are savings to be had on telecommunications expenses and consultant services are
available to assist in solving these cost management issues.

We recommend that an outside audit firm specializing in telecommunications be retained.
This firm should also be able to perform a cost efficiency analysis based on monthly invoices
as well as be able to:

      Itemize all services and fees the County currently pays for services
      Review current plans to assess appropriate levels of use and service, and, if needed,
       recommend and assist in the negotiation of new service plans
      Recognize past billing errors and assist in the recovery of funds

In many situations no costs are incurred until and only if recommendations have been
approved, implemented, and savings realized.

                                                                                           - 13 -