on Feb 14th, 2011 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 12 comments
 
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] T [/dropcap]he Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the Postal Service to comply with specific sections of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). Among other financial reporting requirements, SOX mandates internal control compliance – making sure that financial transactions are reasonably and fairly presented in the accounting records - and places the responsibility on postal management. A recent district-wide audit of 13 postal retail units found 80 internal control compliance issues related to stamp accountabilities, disbursements, and financial accounting and reporting. The cause for most of these issues was attributed to a lack of adequate training, the insufficient financial background of some unit managers, why they were placed in the position without receiving the necessary financial training, and an absence of oversight by the managers and supervisors responsible for implementing financial internal controls. Why do these managers lack the proper training and background to adequately supervise financial operations? One possibility is the amount of management turnover at retail units. The management turnover rate was high at some retail sites visited during the audit. For example, one retail unit had three different acting station managers in the last 18 months. Often, new or acting managers and supervisors come from different segments of the Postal Service and are placed in positions which require them to supervise financial operations. Is there a benefit for bringing in someone from a different segment to oversee the operations of a retail unit? How should they be trained? Please give your comments. The topic is hosted by the Office of Audit Field Financial – West team.

Comments

In my POOM group of 84 offices there are about 40 OIC's in place. A number of these are Postmasters but many, especially in some lower offices, are simply warm bodies willing to go anywhere. In one instance a level 20 office is being led by someone only two years removed from being an RCA. Now that fellow has filled in as supervisor for awhile and certainly can work the various computer applications but I question whether he has the experience necessary to develop the judgement to mange rural routes or a retail unit that does nearly $1 million/per year.
There is no training program in place, no real mentoring program and pitifully little oversight.
With the impending RIFs and shifting of personnel there needs to be some serious consideration given on how to develop and manage our supervisory and entry level staff. We also have to look at how some of these changes will impact non-career replacement staff like PMR's.
In some offices Saturday retail hours have been eliminated. This means that a PMR may not work the retail window on any kind of regular basis. It's difficult to imagine that they can maintain skill levels with minimal exposure. It's important to remember that PMR's work without direct supervision, it's irresponsible to both them and our customers to put them in a position that requires experience, knowledge and judgement without developing those attributes. And, since customer service is receiving heightened focus from the new PMG, does it make sense to have some of your least knowledgable people engaged in delivering a frontline sales experience.
The complaint for years has been that we are micro-managed, that our management is too top down and perhaps overly autocratic. The current process of simply filling positions without regard to skills or qualifications may be an indication that these criticisms are even more accurate and legitimate than we care to admit.

Thanks you for your response. Your concerns have been recorded. We appreciate you sharing your opinion on this issue.

OIC's and other managers are put into (or more often "ask for) details without financial training or are given on-line training that is either outdated or does not cover the actual SOX items that they need training on. In my district the word SOX has changed from a financial issue to a threat. Anything and everything that isn't done by the arbitrary date that the district or MPOO sets is a SOX issue and the managers are subject to discipline. Most do not know what to prioritize. The rules and regulations in the Postal Service financial manuals have been thrown to the wind. For example; Postal Service RULES state that clerks cash drawers should be counted "randomly" and no less than every 30 days. Our district requires that we count ALL clerks "before the 10th" or face discipline for a SOX violation. No one cares if those clerks were counted on the 1st the prior month and had a 40 day count window.

Managers that are trained in financial controls are harrassed about budget. The offices that absorbed the bulk mailers from the other offices never received any increase in budget. The program used for figuring budget for verifying bulk mailings is flawed. It is linked to the number of mailings alone, when one mailing may have 10-20 drop shipments attached, thereby actually making it 10-20 mailings instead of one.

Most of us are not trained, and the few who are do not have the budget to use that knowledge. We are too concerned covering our hineys with all our other SOX.

Harry - Thank you for your input and sharing your views. We appreciate you taking the time to give us some specifics and how the topic relates to other facets of your daily responsibilites.

K - Thank you for your input. This is good information and we appreciate your time in sharing your thought with us.

Having an internal audit of SOX compliance has helped. But every time you change the person in charge (Postmaster or Supervisor) new rules are applied in that office. People manage from what they learned. And who is to say they learned from someone that has dated info or did it wrong in the first place. New Postmasters/OIC's only incentive is to keep off "the list".
Some offices have had as many Postmasters/OIC's in their office as they have had years open. I am aware of one office that has had 13 changes in 13 years.
Understandably the choice to allow this has probably weighed heavy that the same employees have been in the same office for over a decade and basically the office runs itself. (regarding to delivering the mail and selling stamps) And so a new Postmaster/OIC is protected by the knowledge of those already in the office. But are they truly SOX compliant? doubt it, they are running an office in survival mode. If no one complains, then the Postmaster/OIC can get by in not complying (from ignorance of what is required or choice)
Short answer to your question of high turnover and ability to be in compliance? the high turnover certainly sets the USPS for being vulnerable.

I believe that the postmasters and supervisors in the field really do want to do the right thing, but any time we ask questions, we get many varied answers depending on who we talk to. Bulk mailings requirements are so complex that no one can really understand what to do and when to do it. We have many "training" conferences on the internet, but who can actually learn much from those? We need someone either to show us in a classroom setting or to come to our offices and give us some honest feedback. The only true training we get is at Postmaster's convention and that leave has been taken away now!

Janet - Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts on this issue. We appreciate the input.

My office has had an OIC for about two years. Our current PM is at a neighboring PO in which the OIC of my PO is the current PM there. They both have not "officially" been at their proper (current) PO. Shouldn't they be at their respected Post Offices?!?

Lori - Thank you for your response on this subject. We appreciate you sharing the information.

"Often, new or acting managers and supervisors come from different segments of the Postal Service and are placed in positions which require them to supervise financial operations.

Is there a benefit for bringing in someone from a different segment to oversee the operations of a retail unit? How should they be trained? Please give your comments"

On the surface you would think having new blood, new emphasis from someone from a different segment would be helpful. Problem is the combination of new leaders along with the flavor of the week emphasis on what SOP, just leaves the staff unsure what exactly is required. It muddies the direction of what is required.
Can't tell you how many I have seen come through Post Office, have a certain mindset. Be the knight in shining armor and show the boss and the subordinates how a "real" office should be run and within a few months will find their ideals are lost in micro-managment, they are found that reporting is all about numbers and times and its just better to succumb to staying under the radar and give the numbers requested of that office, no matter how false the data is, as long as it flies under the radar.
I have NEVER seen CSAW reporting completed the same way by any two Postmasters or OIC's.
I have NEVER seen LTATS reported the same.
I have NEVER seen a close out done the same.
The list goes on.

Break out the Financial manuals (updated versions); provide time for training (your choice) and have a followup self inspections from neighboring offices.

Provide the tools and time. Hold them accountable (thats an odd concept)

And I have to say Webinars are a joke in small offices.(L18 down) Scheduled at times that they have to run the window, at lunch, interuptions of phone, carriers and customers and still give full focus on a Webinar training . . . hmmm?
You get what you put into it. If you expect good training, you have to give good training. It has potential but it doesnt' answer the question who is going to run the office while one is on the computer.

Finances should be pretty easy and clear. Break it down into what an office is accountable for. Stamps, cash and other payments, retail products. Then expand with WebBats and products and services.
Other accountables can be your employee pay, leave, etc.

The tools are in place, the emplasis to dedicate the time is not.

I took several courses in college related to finances (of course including Accounting) and it is no easy task. Granted there are some people that are better with numbers than others but organization is important as well as more than general knowledge with book keeping. This stagnant economy has companies requiring employees to add to their workload so that they can save money on labor costs. Since that is the case, the only logical answer is to train them properly. There are several free videos that one can find online on how to manage finances. The Postal service should make several short videos of their own highlighting what needs to be done and how in regards to financial reporting to these managerial employees. These videos can be hosted by any e-learning site and once that manager has taken the course a short 20-40 question test will be implemented. The results of the test and the confirmation that the video was viewed by the employee can be immediately noted b whom ever manages the e-learning profile/ site. This method reduces the cost of contracting a trainer as well as paying excessively for the hours that these employees spend in the training class.

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