Audit Report – NO-AR-14-012 – 09/23/2014
The U.S. Postal Service uses highway contract routes (HCR) to transport mail between its facilities. An extra trip is an infrequent trip made in addition those that are outlined in the contract. The Postal Service must complete a Postal Service Form 5397 to authorize an extra trip and a Postal Service Form 5429 to certify the trip was performed and payment is due to the supplier. If a payment is not made timely, the Postal Service is charged interest on the amount owed.
This is the first in a series of HCR extra trip reports. Our objective was to assess HCR extra trips in the Greensboro District. The Greensboro District was consistently ranked one of the 10 most at risk districts for extra trips in our Surface Transportation Risk Model. In fiscal year (FY) 2013, Quarter (Q) 4, the Greensboro District paid about $1.1 million for 7,386 extra trips.
What The OIG Found
The Greensboro District could improve controls over the use and processing of extra trips. We found the Greensboro District could have avoided 689 of 7,386 (9.3 percent) extra trips used to transport mail due to unnecessary mail processing delays or missent mail. Mail processing delays were the result of non-adherence to dispatch leave times and missent mail was the result of operational errors. These events caused the district to spend an additional $53,927 on extra trips in FY 2013, Q4.
We also determined procedures for authorizing and documenting extra trips were not always followed. Over 49 percent of PS Forms 5397 (or 3,163 of 6,342) were not completed properly. Local officials did not always review or authorize these forms and, in some cases, recorded incorrect miles for the trips. Consequently, the Greensboro District incurred $536,643 in costs that were not properly supported or authorized.
We also found that the Postal Service made 34 interest payments because Postal Service Forms 5397 were not submitted on time. Finally, we identified 120 instances where trip dates on Postal Service Forms 5429 did not match those on Forms 5397 because employees were not adequately trained and monitored. As a result, HCR contractors were not paid interest on late payments.
What The OIG Recommended
We recommended management reduce extra trips by implementing controls and enforcing procedures to avoid processing delays and missent mail. We also recommended management provide training on, and monitor compliance with, proper completion of extra trip authorization forms, ensure HCR extra trip forms are submitted timely for payment, and calculate and pay contractors any interest due.