OMB kicks off voting for SAVE Awards

Monday - 11/8/2010, 2:44pm EST

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Season 2 of the SAVE Awards kicked off Monday and the Office of Management and Budget is out with its list of four finalists.

OMB chose four ideas from more than 18,000 submitted by federal employees over the last year. There were 164,000 votes on the 18,000 ideas and 13,000 comments from 20,000 users.

"Our budget team then went through the ideas to see what we were already in the process of fixing, what needed a closer look, and which where worthy of being our four finalists," said Jeff Zients, acting OMB director in a blog post. "The winner will get to present his or her idea directly to President Obama at the White House. Others will be sent to the responsible agencies for potential action. Last year, 20 SAVE Award ideas made their way directly into the President's 2011 Budget, and others helped identify cost-savings across an array of areas."

Last year's winner Nancy Fichtner suggested that the Veterans Affairs Department let patients take home their medication instead of the hospital throwing it away.

An OMB official said "VA launched a pilot program implementing the idea and they are reviewing the results to see if the idea can be implemented more broadly in a way that achieves savings while maintaining highest patient safety standards."

An e-mail request to VA seeking an update on the implementation was not immediately returned. The agency estimated last year Fichtner's idea could save $3.8 million.

This year's finalists include:

  • Stopping the express delivery of empty containers -- Marjorie Cook from Gobles, Mich. is a food inspector in the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service. FSIS inspectors ship 125,000 samples to labs each year using Express Next Day service. Those labs use the same costly shipping method to send empty containers back. Cook said, "We could save a bundle by having those boxes shipped back through regular ground service."

  • Requiring mine operators to submit reports online -- Thomas Koenning of Littleton, Col. works in the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration's information technology center. Currently, MSHA mails paper forms to mine operators so they can report quarterly data. Koenning suggested requiring mine operators to make these reports online to save money on costly form production and postage, reduce input errors and decrease the time it takes to analyze this data which is important to MSHA's efforts to protect the safety of America's mine workers.

  • Posting public notice of seized property online, not in newspapers -- Paul Behe is a paralegal specialist for the Department of Homeland Security in Cleveland. He suggested advertising property seized by Customs and Border Protection -- such as counterfeit watches and purses -- online instead of in newspapers. Behe said, "In addition to the immense cost reduction for the ads, DHS would be able to save the cost of storage for the seized items that are at the contractors, awaiting adjudication."

  • Ending the mailing of thousands of Federal Registers to government employees -- Trudy Givens from Portage, Wis. works for the Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons. The Federal Register is currently mailed to her workplace and nearly 10,000 federal employees every day. Most of the interested public now accesses the Federal Register online. While statute requires that hard copies be available, letting recipients opt-in for hard copy delivery could yield savings associated with printing and postage. When a similar "opt-in" (with fee) option was offered to the public, the number of hard copies mailed was reduced from roughly 25,000 to 500 recipients.

Cast your vote for your favorite idea.

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