• on Jan 20th, 2014 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 4 comments

    Add “upkeep of postal facilities” to the list of tasks that get increasingly difficult to do under a budget crunch. Yet, Americans are passionate about their post offices, so it seems maintenance should be a priority.

    However, the U.S. Postal Service’s financial challenges have made it hard to maintain facilities. During fiscal years 2009-2012, the Postal Service experienced a $382 million decrease in its budget for facility repairs, alterations, and capital improvements, resulting in incomplete repairs or unmet capital improvements. Our recent audit report found about half of the incomplete repairs represent safety or security issues and potential future major repairs. 

    Future costs for these unfunded repairs could reach $1.4 billion. In addition, our work determined that some of these repairs were potential Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations.

    The Postal Service operates 32,000 facilities throughout the country with 280 million square feet of space, and it includes post offices, mail processing facilities, and annexes. The Postal Service’s Facilities Department says employees and customers are not in danger, as it prioritizes repairs based on the safety and security of Postal Service property. Still, the Postal Service’s capital spending freeze initiated in 2009 has clearly had an impact on the ability to upgrade and repair facilities. The Postal Service spent 29 percent below the industry average on facility repairs in FY 2012. Lower priority repairs and improvements are less likely to occur, potentially leading to a longer-term cost.

    Our audit found the Postal Service lacking in developing a strategy to complete all necessary repairs and it did not always accurately prioritize repairs. We recommended it develop a strategy, reallocate funds to complete repairs, and reconcile its prioritization list annually.

    We welcome your thoughts.

    • How best can the Postal Service make the necessary repairs to its facilities while operating under budget constraints?
    • Will people be interested in buying or leasing Postal Service buildings that haven't been well maintained? Or could it affect the value of the properties?
    • Are there issues other than decreased funding that prevent the Postal Service from completing necessary repairs? 
  • on Jan 3rd, 2011 in OIG | 15 comments
    It’s that time of year again. Those of us helping on the Office of Inspector General blog have come up with a list of the top 10 postal stories for 2010. Tell us about any stories we missed and add whatever comments you think appropriate. In particular, we would like to get your input on the top story, so take a minute and vote in the poll below. 10. OSHA Fines the Postal Service – At plants across the country, the Postal Service receives sizeable fines for electrical hazards. 9. e-Tipping Point – A flurry of activity in 2010 bolsters the notion that the Digital Revolution has trumped paper-based communications: Apple introduces its iPad tablet computer; all e-reader sales are up nearly 80 percent over last year; the Kindle becomes Amazon’s biggest seller and the company predicts e-books will surpass paper books within a year; Netflix announces that more customers watch streaming videos than DVDs. 8. Congress Takes Notice – Members from both houses of Congress – and both sides of the aisle – introduce legislation to fix the Postal Service’s overpayments to the federal government, which contributed significantly to the Postal Service’s massive net losses over the past few years. 7. America Wakes Up – Widespread mainstream media coverage on a number of postal issues, including 5-day delivery and the financial challenges plaguing the organization, spark a national interest in our postal system. 6. Reports Address Flawed Business Model – The Government Accountability Office confirms that the Postal Service’s business model is ”not viable.” The Postal Service issues its action plan to address declining mail volumes, changing communications habits and other systemic problems. 5. Stakeholders Debate 5-Day Delivery – The Postal Service’s plan to eliminate Saturday delivery generates heated debate, massive press coverage and congressional input. The Postal Regulatory Commission holds a series of public hearings on the topic. 4. PMG Potter Retires – After nearly 10 years as the postmaster general and 32 years with the Postal Service, Jack Potter called it a career and retired on Dec. 3. 3. Postal Service Suffers Largest Net Loss in History – The Postal Service ends FY 2010 with a net loss of $8.5 billion, the largest net loss in its history. Still, it manages to pay all of its bills and remain solvent at the start of FY 2011. 2. OIG Finds $75 Billion Overpayment – A report by the Office of Inspector General finds that the Postal Service has overpaid its Civil Service Retirement System obligations by a staggering $75 billion. Mailing industry unites in its support of a congressional fix. 1. PRC Denies Exigent Rate Request – The Postal Service invokes the exigency clause in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and asks for a price increase above the inflation-based price cap. Mailers unite in their opposition to the request, which the Postal Regulatory Commission officially denies in September. The Postal Service appeals the decision to federal appeals court.
  • on Aug 9th, 2010 in Labor | 6 comments
    5,214 workers died on the job in the U.S. in 2008 "With every one of these fatalities, the lives of a worker's family members were shattered and forever changed. We can't forget that fact." -Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor
    Safety is a key component of all Postal Service operations, activities, and facilities. Nonetheless, safety issues do occur in the Postal Service as in other organizations. Recently, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors found electrical safety violations in several Postal Service Processing and Distribution Facilities (P&DCs). Electrical Safety issues at Postal P&DCs identified by OSHA include: •Electricity problems in facilities •Failure to adequately lock out machines' power sources to prevent unexpected start-ups •Inadequate training for employees exposed to electrical hazards •Failure to provide electrical protective equipment to protect employees from arc-flash hazards and electrical current •Failure to use appropriate safety signs, safety symbols or accident prevent tags to warn employees about electrical hazards As a result of the findings, OSHA has announced that it will inspect the over 300 P&DCs nationwide. But OSHA does not consider only electricity–related safety. Other areas of concern include: •Employee workplace rights •Chemical Hazard Communication •How To Prepare For Workplace Emergencies •Personal Protective Equipment •Biological agents There are also many instances of praise for the Postal Service from OSHA including: A 2009 inspection for safety levels at the El Paso Postal Distribution Center that resulted in merit recognition in the Voluntary Protection Programs for its employee health and safety achievements. Also in 2009, the Postal Service's Evergreen Detached Carrier Unit in Hillsboro, OR, received OSHA's highest safety recognition award. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Audit Engineering and Facilities team.