Audit Report – DR-AR-14-008 – 09/02/2014
This report presents the results of our self-initiated audit of the U.S. Postal Service’s Post Office Relocation Process (Project Number 14XG005DR000). Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s process for relocating Post Office retail operations to other facilities. See Appendix A for additional information about this audit.
The Postal Service manages 31,702 post offices that provide retail services such as counter assistance, postage stamps, money orders, and Post Office (PO) boxes.1 The Postal Service can move a Post Office’s retail operations from one location to another, typically within the same ZIP Code area, for reasons such as lease issues and space optimization. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified 114 Post Office retail operation relocations that occurred for fiscal years (FY) 2011 through 2013.
The relocation process consists of a concept study, public notification, and site selection. Facility staff prepares a node study to initiate a relocation and, once the study and funding are approved, the Postal Service informs local officials and the public of the proposed relocation. Local officials and the public can comment on and appeal the proposal to relocate retail operations. The vice president, Facilities, adjudicates these appeals. Postal Service management identifies and selects a final site. Additionally, local officials and the public can comment on the final site selection, but neither can appeal it unless it was disclosed during the initial public meeting. Title 39 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and Postal Service guidance do not require officials to announce the new sites at public meetings. See Appendix B for a flowchart of the relocation process.
The process for relocating facilities is not always transparent. Further, the vice president, Facilities, has conflicting responsibilities for approving funding and adjudicating relocation appeals. We reviewed 33 of the 114 relocation projects we identified for FYs 2011 through 2013 and found 25 new site selections that were not announced until after the public comment and appeal periods ended and two with undetermined announcement dates. We also found that only one of the 25 appeals filed for the 114 projects was upheld, leading the Postal Service to halt the relocation. Further, the Postal Service was not adequately tracking the number of relocations and could not readily identify all of them. Finally, officials did not always effectively manage the public notification and documentation process.
These conditions occurred because some procedures were unclear and the vice president, Facilities, was authorized to approve funding and adjudicate appeals. Further, Postal Service guidelines did not require tracking of all relocations and officials did not always know the specific relocation processes. Consequently, the public and local officials may not have had the information they needed to make informed comments and determine the impact of a relocation, which could harm the Postal Service’s relationship with the public.
Post Office Relocation Process
The relocation process was not always transparent. Site selection announcements were made at various times during the process and the official adjudicating appeals also approved funding for the relocation projects. Additionally, a listing of all relocations for the past 3 fiscal years was not readily available. Furthermore, there were administrative and management issues with public notification and documentation processes.