• on Jan 2nd, 2012 in OIG | 5 comments
    It’s been a year of major changes in the postal world. Looking over the headlines, the staff at the Office of Inspector General has pulled together the list below of the top 10 postal stories for 2011. Take a moment, read them over, and vote for your top story of the year. If you think we missed one, let us know! 10.Another Year, Another Loss – Even with a deferral of the retiree health payment, the Postal Service loses $5.1 billion in 2011, although $3.7 billion is changes to workers’ compensation expenses. 9.To Exigent or Not to Exigent – After federal appeals court remands the exigency case back to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the Postal Service is still undecided on whether it will pursue higher than CPI rates. 8.Pension Funding in the Black – OPM projects a $13.1 billion surplus in the Postal Service’s FERS and CSRS pension accounts for 2011. 7.DVDs by Mail Not Dead Yet – Netflix is forced to backpedal after customers rail against the company’s plan to unbundle DVDs by mail. 6.GAO Just Says No Overpayment – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) weighs in on the debate about the Postal Service’s $75 billion CSRS overpayment, stating there was no evidence of accounting errors and returning the funds is ultimately a policy choice that impacts the federal budget. 5.Digital Media to the Rescue – Ironically, blogs such as Dead Tree Edition, Courier, Express, and Postal Observer, and Save the Post Office are driving the debate in the area of hard copy postal issues. 4.Is Overnight Over? – The Postal Service proposes changing delivery service standards, including eliminating overnight delivery for First-Class Mail, to capture savings from network consolidation. 3.Plethora of Bills, Paucity of Law – An unprecedented interest in postal reform yields an abundance of legislative proposals, yet still no new law. 2.Cut, Cut, Cut – The Postal Service announces a provocative plan to break labor contracts, withdraw from federal health and retirement plans, and seek workforce reductions of 220,000 through layoffs and attrition. 1.Something’s Got to Give Round 1 – The Postal Service’s aggressive plans to close about 250 processing plants and more than 3,600 post offices hits strong opposition leading to a temporary moratorium on closings until May 15, 2012. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.
  • on Oct 17th, 2011 in OIG | 3 comments
    Pushing the Envelope is entering its fourth year! So on this annual observance of our birthday, let’s look back at some of the successes of our third year and consider where we hope to take this blog in the next year. We published our first blog in October 2008, and since that time, Pushing the Envelope has tried to highlight a number of important postal issues for the benefit of postal stakeholders and the public at large. In the last year alone, 1046 comments have been posted in response to topics on our blog. In the 2011 fiscal year, we posted 55 new blog topics on a range of subjects. Our most viewed topics from the last year included: 1) Is 5-Day Delivery in the Future? 2) The Postal Service Workers Compensation Program 3) Is “Coopetition” a Good Thing for the Postal Service? 4) The OIG Wants Your Help on Audits 5) What’s Next for the Postal Service in 2011? As you can see, our blogs covered a wide range topics including prominent public policy issues, Postal Service business practices, and the core functions of the OIG’s office. Also, many of our older, favorite blogs continued to generate views and discussion on the comment boards. Our top 5 blogs of all time are: 1) The OIG Wants to Know How You Feel about Sick Leave 2) Silly Rules 3) Brainstorm Ideas to Help the Postal Service 4) Nationwide Wage Uniformity: Is It a Good Idea for the Postal Service? 5) 5-Day Delivery, What about 3-Day? Most of the blogs published in 2011 were written with the Postal Service’s financial condition as the backdrop. We tried to use Pushing the Envelope as a discussion forum to get feedback on new and unique ideas for insuring the Postal Service’s future including developing a comprehensive postal digital strategy, adding new mail products like carbon neutral delivery, and updating older non-postal products like money orders with electronic pre-paid cards. Whether or not these ideas become a reality, we hope to facilitate an open, honest discussion about their pros and cons. This year we also focused on helping our readers understand the core functions of the OIG with blogs about how our Office of Audit works and the ways that the OIG detects and combats contract fraud. Additionally, you, the Pushing the Envelope readers, helped the OIG detect waste, fraud, and abuse by posting 17 comments that were referred to our investigation hotline. This next year should be an important and memorable year for the Postal Service, and we plan to continue focusing on crucial postal policy issues as well as identifying fraud and waste. So, what topics would you like to see covered on the OIG blog in 2012? Are there any things you think we should change? Let us know in the comments section below. Most importantly, thanks for visiting us for the last three years and keep commenting!
  • on Jul 18th, 2011 in OIG | 9 comments
    Contract fraud is a big problem for the federal government and quite possibly for the U.S. Postal Service, which currently manages over 20,000 contracts worth $29 billion. Conservative business estimates project up to 5 percent of contracted dollars are lost to fraud, meaning $1.45 billion of Postal Service funds are potentially at risk. Detecting, stopping, and preventing fraud is a core mission of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and we need your help. We’ll be using this blog to introduce some common fraud schemes and their warning signs. You don’t need special skills or a badge to fight contract fraud — just know the warning signs and alert the OIG when you see them. Scheme of the Week: False Claims or False Statements With false claims or false statements, a contractor knowingly submits a fraudulent invoice for payment or approval. This includes over-billing, certifying that a product or service meets specifications when it does not, and providing fraudulent documentation, as well as situations where a Postal Service employee knows a claim is false but processes or authorizes it anyway. In one case, an OIG investigation uncovered a phantom cleaning business used in a scheme to fraudulently bill the Postal Service for cleaning services never rendered. In another, a Highway Contract Route contractor submitted more than 337 false or fraudulent fuel use certifications, trying to get paid for unused fuel. The Postal Service recovered $970,000 through a settlement with the contractor and refused to pay an additional $284,000 in improper claims. What to watch for:
    • Documents supporting supplier invoices are inadequate or obviously altered
    • Invoiced quantities and prices differ from contract terms
    • Delivered goods and services do not match invoices
    • Quality of goods or services is poor
    • Test or inspection documentation isn’t provided or is determined not to exist when requested
    • Discrepancies exist between test results and inspection results
    • Supplier repeatedly acknowledges errors when questioned about discrepancies in contract documentation
    • Supplier provides a product or service that doesn’t conform to contract specifications with no variance or requested/approved change
    When to contact the OIG While the warning signs above don’t necessarily mean fraud is occurring, they do warrant further investigation. If you notice these signs, please contact the OIG Hotline, which accepts confidential and anonymous complaints. Do you have any thoughts on preventing and identifying contract fraud, or getting our message out? Let us know in the comment section below! This is the beginning of a series of contract fraud topics hosted by the OIG’s Major Fraud Investigations Division.

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