• on Oct 11th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 7 comments
    PostalOne!® is a web-based system designed to facilitate business mail processing and allows the Postal Service to electronically collaborate with business mail customers. It is also used to streamline the mail acceptance and postage payment process. Mailers can either submit a paper postage statement (a summary of items mailed showing postage) or use one of three electronic formats. •Mail.dat® •Mail.XML •Postal Statement Wizard (PSW). Mailers may qualify for Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) discounts when they submit postage statements electronically using Mail.dat or Mail.XML. The Mail.XML submission method supports near real time validation of mailing data as well as compatibility with current ecommerce technology. Mailers can also enter mailing information, such as type and quantity of items mailed into the PostalOne! system over the Internet using Postal Statement Wizard. Both Mail.dat and Mail.XML submissions have increased in recent years. In June 2010, over half of all postage statements were submitted electronically, and of those, 89% were submitted using Mail.dat. That’s a sharp contrast from the beginning of the fiscal year, when 78% of business mail postage statements were submitted in hardcopy format. While electronic postage statement processing is a promising tool for making the Postal Service more efficient, it still faces issues: Does the cost of mailer software development and upgrade offset IMb discounts? Are rejected electronic postage statement files processed timely? Does it help the Postal Service to collect all its revenue? What do you think of businesses submitting and postal employees accepting business mail postage statements electronically? Is electronic postage statement submission a boon or a bust? More information on this project can be found on our Audit Projects page. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Cost, Revenue & Rates audit team.
  • on Jul 12th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 5 comments
    The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002 grew out of large corporate financial scandals. SOX aims to improve corporate governance and enhance the accuracy of financial reporting. While compliance is required by the Postal Act of 2006, the Postal Service believes it is a great way to make its business stronger. SOX helps target areas of improvement and strengthen financial accounting, making the Postal Service a better business. As a result, the Postal Service designed and implemented new business mail acceptance procedures and requirements in an effort to comply with SOX. The initiative includes new check-in, verification, recording, placarding, and induction procedures for processing business mail; daily certifications of SOX compliance by business mail entry units; an updated mail acceptance handbook; and enhanced customer use of the PostalOne! system. Although the Postal Service hopes to strengthen its financial integrity and reporting accountability and reinforce the public’s trust in the Postal Service, there is widespread confusion at postal facilities about SOX compliance and how it changes (or does not change) mail acceptance and verification policies. Mailers and service providers often argue that postal facilities are misinterpreting SOX compliance policies, describing problems such held-up mailings, inconsistent acceptance processes, insufficient education and training, and inconsistent approvals from postal personnel. What do you think about the Postal Service’s new business mail acceptance procedures? We’d like to hear from you. We are also currently conducting an audit evaluating whether the Postal Service is effectively implementing the requirements of SOX. Click here for more information or to provide comments on the audit. This topic is hosted by the Office of Audit Field Financial – Central team.
  • on Jan 25th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 124 comments
    How much does it cost to develop, print, ship, inventory, secure, sell, and cancel a stamp used to mail a letter?  What about the stamps that are never sold?  The Postal Service destroys billions of stamps each year because they are obsolete.  In FY 2008, the Postal Service printed 37 billion stamps, which cost $78 million to print.  In that same year, they destroyed old stamps, some of which were printed more than 10 years ago, that were valued at approximately $2.8 billion.  Those stamps were printed, shipped, counted multiple times in various inventories, and finally shipped back for destruction under secure conditions.  How much does this cost and does the Postal Service benefit from the expense?

    Are there better alternatives to stamps?  Business customers often rent postage meters and use permits for bulk mail.  Now, the advent of online postage vendors has given individual customers an alternative to stamps.  Customers that use online postage can customize their postage and incorporate approved language or pictures.

    Not everyone has access to a computer.  What can we do for people who do not have access to online postage or who simply do not want to use online postage?  One answer may be simplifying the Postal Service’s current stamp inventory.  What if all postage stamps were “Forever Stamps”?  Stamps would never become obsolete and have to be destroyed, and production costs would never eat up their contribution to overhead.  After a rate increase — now generally an annual event rather than every 3 or 4 years — there would be no 1-cent or 2-cent stamp shortages or rush to produce the next generation of denominated stamps. What about stamp collectors?  Would philatelic sales suffer if the Postal Service reduced the denominations it offered?  Commemorative Forever Stamps could be issued in limited quantities to satisfy collectors.  Some commemorative stamps could be sold locally, while others could only be ordered and shipped direct from a central location.  Forever Stamps that marked holidays or other special events such as birthdays would be very useful for people who wanted to stock up.  And what could be more appropriate for wedding invitations than “Forever Love” stamps? Do you know of a better method of postage payment, convenient and available to everybody that could be implemented? Tell us what you think. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Field Financial East directorate. Topic was revised to indicate that 37 billion stamps not $37 billion worth of stamps were printed in 2008.

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