USPS responds to claims of its handling of late mail

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has responded to criticism from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) about its handling and recording of delayed mail. While USPS has acknowledged some concerns in the audit, it disputed other aspects.

The Washington Post reported on the written response from USPS’ Vice President for Network Operations, Robert Cintron. While he admitted the need for “required training for staffers involved in mail counts and for managers” to ensure data accuracy, he also noted “a serious disagreement with the inspector general.”

This response comes at the heels of an audit report conducted by OIG that concluded USPS “has been inaccurately reporting delayed mail across a number of facilities.”

In a response to a FreightWaves story posted yesterday, a member of the Postal Service Corporate Communications team sought to clarify the issue.

“We consider any allegations of the mishandling of mail very seriously. We take issue that the OIG subjectively selected eight plants out of our postal network of more than 250. It also mischaracterized our plants as rural or urban entities. The OIG’s flawed methodology results in conclusions that are both inaccurate and susceptible to misinterpretation.

“What the OIG found in its August 10th report was that some employees did not properly record delayed mail and needed additional training on that issue. We agreed with that conclusion and will complete employee training on the proper procedures for recording mail delivery by next week.

“The audit also wrongly concluded that mail arriving late to our processing centers will be delivered late or delayed. This is not true. Mail can arrive at a mail processing center after the acceptance deadline and still be processed and delivered on time.

“Please note that while the Postal Service does not discuss employee discipline or personnel decisions, the actions of a very few employees does not reflect on the 640,000 dedicated men and women of the Postal Service. The Postal Service investigates allegations of wrongdoing by its employees and takes corrective action as warranted, based on the facts of each investigation.”

Cintron noted his objections to the audit report, particularly “the OIG’s suggested monetary impacts of $85.1M.”

Cintron wrote to the Post, “It is not clear from the audit how the late arriving mail from eight judgmentally selected (targeted plants) is a statistically valid representation of all plants in the Postal Service Network.”

The audit report said that of the eight P&DCs analyzed through on-site visits over two days, five of them “did not accurately count on-hand delayed mail.” OIG said one-third of late mail failed to get recorded correctly. OIG attributed this to the lack of supervision and training “in counting and reporting delayed mail”.

OIG noted that “when mail condition reports are not accurate, management uses incorrect information to make decisions on staffing, mail processing equipment use, preventive maintenance, and the transportation of mail.”

Deputy Assistant Inspector General Christopher P. Cherry claimed the employees were aware of the lapses in following protocol and wrote to senators who questioned USPS following the report.

“Four employees admitted to failing to report delayed mail,” he wrote. “We learned that parcels were scanned as undeliverable to stop the clock. One of the four employees admitted to swiping employees’ time cards and manipulating … data at the direction of Postal Service management. Postal Service management denied directing clerks to scan the PO Box section barcode early.”

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