Audit Report – MI-AR-15-001 – 01/23/2015
The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiated a U.S. Postal Service-wide series of audits to review the Postal Service’s use of data. These audits included discussions and analyses of the data the deputy postmaster general and the executive vice presidents use.
The Postal Service depends on data to manage its business strategies and daily activities. With effective and efficient access to appropriate internal and external data, the Postal Service can make more informed business decisions.
This audit report, one in a series, focuses on the use of data by the general counsel and executive vice president (general counsel). The general counsel’s office is responsible for corporate and postal business law, as well as legal strategy and policy.
Our objective was to determine whether the general counsel effectively uses internal and external business data to manage business activities and mitigate risk.
What The OIG Found
The general counsel effectively uses internal and external data to manage business activities and mitigate risk. For example, the office of general counsel extracts and analyzes data, performs trend analysis of law activities, and restricts access to sensitive data. However, opportunities exist to use data more effectively for decision-making and risk management.
The general counsel’s tort claim management system tracks individual tort claims of $5,000 or more. On average, about 3,600 tort claims are recorded in system and about $52 million are paid annually. However, the system does not allow a user to run sortable reports directly from the system. Instead, either information technology staff must develop specialized data searches and reports for a user or the user must manually search for data.
In addition, the Postal Service should change the way it establishes repair costs related to motor vehicle tort claims. Almost $170 million in motor vehicle tort claims were paid in the past 3 fiscal years (including vehicle repair, medical, pain and suffering, wage loss, and miscellaneous property damage).
The process used to pay these claims involves obtaining two repair estimates and selecting the lower estimate for payment. However, the insurance industry uses regional and national vehicle damage repair cost trend data to determine payment amounts. The Postal Service could use similar commercially available information to help ensure repair costs are reasonable and mitigate overpayment.
Finally, our work identified two metrics the office of general counsel does not use to analyze and understand data. One metric is the frequency of monitoring of ethics violations more frequently than annually and the other monitors advice time on internal legal matters. These metrics are important to developing timely and actionable management data. During the audit, the office of general counsel agreed these metrics are needed and will be available by Quarter 1 of fiscal year 2016.
What The OIG Recommended
We recommended the general counsel implement a program to improve the data and claim search capability of the tort claim management system and use a commercial vendor to provide vehicle repair cost trend data to validate vehicle repairs costs.
Finally, we recommended the general counsel continue his efforts to establish metrics to monitor ethics compliance and advice time for internal legal matters by Quarter 1 of fiscal year 2016.