The U.S. Postal Service is currently replacing its existing retail point of service software with Retail Systems Software (RSS). As of May 2015, the Postal Service has deployed RSS to about 3,400 of the 17,781 retail units. The Postal Service plans a complete nationwide deployment by May 2016.
RSS provides point of sale business functionalities for retail associates (RAs). It is intended to enable RAs to give customers prompt, accurate, and consistent service while enforcing policies and procedures and implementing business transactions controls. The RSS technology allows for quicker and more cost effective system changes.
When the system is not operating as intended, the Postal Service identifies problems and works to resolve them. As of March 2015, the Postal Service resolved 2,469 of the 2,776 problems associated with RSS.
Our objective was to determine whether the controls surrounding point of sale business transactions were in place and effective, and if control issues identified during RSS implementation were adequately remediated.
What The OIG Found
We visited six retail units in two districts and determined that controls over selected point of sale business transactions were not always in place or effective, and system problems were not always remediated timely. Specifically:
■■ RAs did not receive a warning from RSS when scanning prepaid barcodes multiple times. Management was unaware of the problem and customers could use the same prepaid barcode to mail multiple mailpieces, essentially obtaining free postage.
■■ RAs did not always use RSS to accept prepaid mailpieces, bypassing mailpiece weight verification. Management corrected the RSS problem, but RAs were unaware of the correction and the Postal Service may have lost revenue for postage shortages.
■■ Management did not effectively communicate RSS updates and enhancements to RAs. Management cannot use the intended RSS process to distribute communications because of a nearly 2-year-old system problem. Ineffective communication increases the risk of lost revenue.
■■ An RSS data file used during system conversion contained errors with site-specific information, including retail unit addresses. An incorrect address could provide unreasonable guarantees to the customer, which could increase refunds and harm the Postal Service’s brand.
■■ RSS controls did not consider the size of the retail unit when limiting the unit’s RA access rights. Further, management did not always remove an employee’s access rights when he or she no longer worked at the retail unit. Excessive or unauthorized access rights can lead to improper business transactions, such as inappropriate refunds.
■■ RAs routinely answered the required hazardous materials question for the customer instead of having the customer read and respond using the customer display unit. This could lead to an unsafe workplace.
■■ The Postal Service did not implement three of five recommendations addressing Premium Forwarding Service control weaknesses. For example, RSS did not contain a transaction reference number that links related transactions. This can lead to untimely customer service and may increase the risk of issuing inappropriate refunds.
■■ RSS did not provide a unique tracking number for Postal Service customer call center purposes. Instead, the receipt provided a number that customers can also use to obtain online tracking information, essentially receiving free tracking on certain mailpieces.
What The OIG Recommended
We recommended management implement controls to alert the RAs when multiple scans occur on prepaid barcodes and reiterate that RAs must use RSS when accepting prepaid mail at the retail counter. We also recommended management develop additional methods to communicate RSS enhancements, remediate the RSS messaging center problem, and verify RSS site-specific information is correct and design a control that periodically validates accuracy.
Further, we recommended management implement controls to appropriately limit access rights based on retail unit size and ensure these rights are revoked when the employee no longer works at the unit.
In addition, we recommended management emphasize to RAs the importance of having the customer read and respond to the hazardous materials question on the customer display unit unless assistance is needed and ensure compliance.
Finally, we recommended management develop controls to ensure RSS communicates with other applicable Postal Service systems for Premium Mail Forwarding verification and develop a unique transaction reference number that retrieves stored Premium Mail Forwarding data and links related transactions.