Inspector General, United States Postal Service
July 13, 2021
The $263 million included in the President’s budget is based on our FY 2022 budget submission last fall. This was before the Postal Service announced its plans to make significant changes, including the following.
- The Postal Service is dramatically modifying its large and complex network by creating postal facilities dedicated to parcel sortation. Other mail ― letters, flats, and containers ― will be processed in separate facilities. This constitutes a dramatic change that will require realigning facilities’ footprints around the country at the same time the Postal Service is processing the mail in its system.
- To increase its focus on handling growing parcel volume, the Postal Service is adding around 46 annexes and spending almost $9 billion on new equipment, including new parcel sorting machines. An investment by the Postal Service of this significance requires careful oversight.
- The Postal Service is moving a portion of its mail volume from air to surface transportation, including approximately 9 percent of First-Class Mail volume and 31 percent of First-Class Package Services volume. The goal of this change is to increase service reliability and save costs, but these changes can only be made in conjunction with a reduction in service standards. Postal customers are concerned the Postal Service will neither reap the financial benefits nor enhance service reliability.
These changes are complex and difficult, and there is a risk implementation could result in regional or widespread service issues. Our work has revealed that historically, when the Postal Service implements network changes, it has not always been able to improve service or realize the projected cost savings.1 Continuous monitoring and oversight of the announced network changes will allow the Postal Service to quickly fix issues, protecting postal customers. As a result of these significant upcoming changes, we plan to request an additional $17 million in our FY 2023 budget to increase the amount and timeliness of our oversight. With these funds we can expand our capacity to quickly respond to ongoing service challenges.
These funds will partially restore our staffing by 83 employees and allow us to form an audit group dedicated to continuous monitoring of service across the country and providing quick, service-focused reports. We will build on the lessons learned last fall when we sent 500 OIG employees to over 2,000 postal facilities nationwide to monitor election mail. Using an OIG-created app, we were able to provide the Postal Service and Congress near real-time data on our daily observations. This allowed the Postal Service to quickly resolve any issues we identified, such as ballots that had not been fully processed and cleared from the plant. While our effort was successful, it took significant resources and resulted in other investigative and audit projects being put on hold. Increased funding would allow us to provide this type of near real-time monitoring on a more frequent and national basis as the Postal Service implements network changes. This monitoring would enable increased transparency regarding service during the holiday mailing season and next year’s mid-term elections.
Continuous near real-time monitoring and quick response reports allow the Postal Service to promptly fix the issues we identify, mitigating the negative impacts on postal customers. While the $17 million is requested for the FY 2023 budget, the sooner we get these additional funds, the sooner we can provide more effective and timely oversight. Because the Postal Service is moving quickly to implement some of the network changes, it is critical that our resources grow in tandem with these moves.
The recent changes announced by the Postal Service are likely just the beginning. As these changes progress, judicious oversight is essential to ensuring timely, efficient, and equitable mail service to all areas of the country.
Source: Hearing | Hearings | United States Senate Committee on Appropriations