THE WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT ______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 28, 1994
GORE MEETS WITH TREASURY DEPARTMENT REINVENTION LEADERS Vice President Hears How Customs, IRS Offices Make Government Work Better, Cost Less Urges Agencies to Focus on Improving Customer Service Standards, Empowering Employees
WASHINGTON -- Challenging all federal agencies to empower their employees to get better results and to improve customer service standards, Vice President Al Gore today (3/28) met with Department of Treasury reinvention leaders to hear how they make government work better and cost less.
"The American people are right to believe we should serve them well. We should never get so caught up wrestling with complex problems and rules that we lose sight of who is paying for this government. It is their tax dollars, and they deserve excellent service," the Vice President said. "In the past, we designed programs and systems to satisfy bosses. Now, we must design them to satisfy customers."
The Vice President talked with employees from two branches of the Treasury Department who have exemplified reinventing government: The Customs Service Miami District Office in Florida, and the Internal Revenue Service Office in Ogden, Utah.
Employees of the Customs Service District Office in Miami were empowered by their supervisor to change they way they dealt with businesses who shipped goods through the region. As a result, American travelers and business people going through Customs now receive faster, more efficient service.
Specifically, the district office has created a government-industry partnership where some major shippers are taught to do their own inspections. Now, instead of delaying cargo and passengers, companies such as American Airlines inspect their own shipments. This frees Customs agents to do more spot checks. Not only is enforcement better -- shippers themselves make more than 40 percent of all Customs drug busts in the Miami office -- but the process moves faster as well.
The Miami District Office has improved customer service in other ways, too. If a perishable shipment, such as flowers, arrives in the middle of the night or on a holiday, Customs agents inspect the cargo immediately, just as if it was their business at stake.
The Customs Service is not the only branch of Treasury that is reinventing government. At the IRS Office in Ogden, Utah, management, employees and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) have joined forces to create a partnership where taxpayers are valued as customers. Changes they have made include empowering employees to do their jobs better, applying principles of ownership where employees take responsibility for work as if they were the director, and active involvement by the management to total quality activities.
The changes made at the Ogden Office are not just on paper, they're being implemented. For example, a down-on-his-luck hitchhiker made his way to the office to see if he could track down his tax return. Employees there found that his refund had been sent to his old address. They had it rerouted where it could reach him. In the mean time, since the hitchhiker had no place to stay and no money for food until the check showed up, the employees took up a collection for him.
Representatives from both offices were presented with the Hammer Award by the Vice President. The award is given to federal employees who exemplify the principles of making government work better and cost less -- those who are breaking down unnecessary bureaucracy to build a better government.
"At IRS and Customs, you already are making a difference when it comes to serving your customers, the American taxpayers. Empowered to make decisions and freed from red tape, you are achieving incredible results," he said.
Reinvention efforts at the Treasury Department are part of a government wide effort to improve federal service. On September 11, President Clinton signed an Executive Order on Setting Customer Service Standards. It directs the federal government to provide the highest quality service possible to the American people -- service that matches or exceeds the best available in the private sector.
The Executive Order on Customer Service Standards is a result of the Vice President's National Performance Review: Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less. The report is a detailed plan with hundreds of recommendations and cost-savings reforms. About 80 percent of those recommendations already are being put in place across the federal government.
"Businesses in the private sector compare their organizations with their competitors to learn what can be done better, cheaper and faster. We must begin to do the same in the federal government -- compare ourselves to the best in the businesses so that we can sort out where to reengineer," the Vice President said.