• on Dec 31st, 2012 in OIG | 4 comments
    The Postal Service faced its own fiscal cliff in 2012 while the larger mailing industry continued to press for reform and innovation. But don’t count mail out just yet. A strong election season reminded many Americans that mail still matters, even in the digital age. And in Europe, one postal operator didn’t let 500 years of history stand in the way of reinventing itself. 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 2012. After you read them, vote for your top story of the year, or let us know if we missed one. 10. Pitfalls of Sponsorship – The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency strips cycling legend Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles after accusing him of illegal doping while on the U.S. Postal Service team. 9. Sound as a Pound – Royal Mail positions itself for privatization after ending price controls, shifting its pension liability to the government, and earning a profit. 8. Regulatory Fireworks – The Postal Regulatory Commission approves a controversial and newspaper industry-opposed negotiated service agreement with Valassis and remands a portion of the Postal Service’s annual price increase, saying it ignored previous Commission orders. 7. A Vote for Election Mail – Direct mail still matters in politics. Election mail postage surged over $400 million as parties and politicians used mail to target their messages in contentious national and local elections. 6. Default This Year; Reform Next Year – The Postal Service defaults on two prefunding payments totaling $11.1 billion to the Retiree Health Benefits Fund. Lawmakers ready for a postal reform bill in the new Congress. 5. Terminator 2012: Rise of the Tablets, (Further) Decline of Print – Coincidence or not? Venerable publications, such as Newsweek and the Times Picayune newspaper, abandon or reduce their print editions, while the number of tablet owners doubled in the past year and reached 19 percent of adults. 4. Shrink to Fit – The Postal Service’s 5-year business plan calls for cutting costs by $20 billion through workforce reduction, consolidation of facilities, and elimination of Saturday delivery. In initial action, the Postal Service compromised and reduced hours at rural post offices rather than closing them and pushed back its plan to eliminate overnight delivery of First-Class Mail. 3. Postcards from the Edge – The Postal Service reaches its statutory borrowing limit of $15 billion for the first time ever and warned that it could run out of cash by October 2013, barring any significant action. 2. Brand Damage – Steady stream of bad news keeps the Postal Service in the news and threatens to hurt its brand, which could prove especially harmful as it reinvents its business model for the digital age. 1. Parcels are the New Letters – Same-day delivery trials by eBay and the Postal Service, the growth in parcel lockers, and the efforts of traditional brick-and-mortar powerhouse Wal-Mart to increase its online presence indicate a very bright future for packages.
  • 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 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.

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