Our objective was to assess the accuracy of grievances recorded in the Grievance and Arbitration Tracking System (GATS) for the Houston District.
The Postal Service defines a grievance as a dispute, difference or disagreement between parties or a complaint lodged by a party regarding wages, hours or conditions of employment. The grievance process allows employees to discuss and informally settle grievances with their immediate supervisor; however, if there is no resolution, the union can file a formal grievance. While informal grievances do not require supporting documentation, formal grievances must have a copy of the appeal and applicable Postal Service forms. Both types of grievances are entered in GATS, which tracks the steps in the grievance process.
Between July 2015 and May 2017, the Houston District processed 161,820 grievance payments totaling over $14 million, which was the highest of all 67 Postal Service districts. We reviewed a statistical sample of 187 grievance payments, which consisted of 172 informal grievance payments (totaling $31,234) and 15 formal grievance payments (totaling $2,156).
What the OIG Found
Grievances recorded in GATS for the Houston District were not accurate. Specifically, we identified [redacted] payments totaling [redacted] made to carriers delivering mail after 5:00 P.M. (also referred to as After 5 payments) improperly processed in GATS as informal grievances, instead of utilizing available functionality in the Time and Attendance Collection System (TACS).
In addition, controls over the grievance payment process were not designed to effectively ensure that appropriate user access limits were assigned, adequate management oversight was conducted, the standard grievance number format was used, and correct issue codes were entered.
Lastly, the Houston District did not maintain complete and accurate supporting documentation for 76 of the 187 statistically sampled grievance payments (or 41 percent).
These conditions occurred because:
- District management decided to process After 5 payments in GATS to facilitate managing and tracking payments.
- GATS does not allow user access limitation options for grievance transactions; higher-level managers were not aware of grievance payment activity that exceeded the district’s $500 threshold; managers and supervisors were unaware of the required standard grievance number format; and the Labor Relations manager did not review GATS records to detect grievances without issue codes.
- Managers did not review grievances to ensure they were complete and accurately supported, including the rationale for payment, unless supervisors directly notified them to review payment activity.
By processing After 5 payments through GATS, the Postal Service continues to incur costs associated with manually processing these payments. There is also an increased risk of errors, duplicate payments, and overstatement of grievance activity. For example, grievance payments for the Houston District were overstated by [redacted] from July 2015 through May 2017.
Additionally, ineffective GATS controls and incomplete supporting documentation for grievance payments increases the risk of improper grievance payments. There were 1,050 duplicate payments totaling $71,385 due to incorrect usage of the grievance number format for After 5 payments. We also identified over $5.7 million in unsupported questioned costs for informal grievance payments made without supporting documentation from July 2015 through May 2017.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management:
- Modify TACS to leverage automation when processing After 5 payments or revise the policy regarding the use of GATS,
- Limit user access in GATS to levels appropriate for user oversight responsibilities,
- Establish a process to ensure managers review informal grievance payments exceeding $500,
- Recover duplicate payments that were made due to the incorrect number format, and
- Provide GATS refresher training regarding information and documentation practices.
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Source: USPS Office of Inspector General