• on Aug 16th, 2010 in Strategy & Public Policy | 8 comments
    There is no question that a country’s postal service is a valuable national asset. On one hand, it is a functional asset that supports commerce and binds the nation together. On the other, postal operations are capital assets, with distribution networks, vehicles, machinery, and labor resources that have some sort of value. While the value of binding the nation together is difficult to put into monetary terms, the value of capital assets is easier to assess. In fact, some cash-strapped governments around the world are trying to raise money by selling parts of their postal operations. The most prominent example is Greece, who announced in June that it plans to sell 39 percent of the national postal service, Hellenic Post. Greece’s troubled financial condition sent shockwaves through world markets in February. Greece plans to sell off part of Hellenic Post as a condition of the financial rescue package provided by other European Union (EU) members and the International Monetary Fund totaling €110 billion ($142 billion). The plan calls for Greece to raise at least €1 billion ($1.29 billion) per year for the next three years by selling off state-owned services including the national rail line and various utilities. Despite this partial privatization, the Greek government will still control 51 percent of Hellenic Post. Hellenic Postbank holds the remaining 10 percent. It will also remain the dominant company in the Greek postal market as EU regulators put off fully opening Greece to postal competition until 2013. This special regulation is because Hellenic Post must serve a large number of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, making its universal service obligation far more expensive than most other areas of Europe. This also makes the Greek situation unique. As the financial crisis that began in 2007 drags on into its third year, governments are trying to find ways to finance or pay off mounting deficits. One solution embraced by some, currently including Greece, UK, and Russia, is to leverage the value of national assets, particularly postal services. The question that remains is whether accepting money in the short term will harm the long-term value of national posts when it comes to promoting commerce and national unity. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • 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.
  • on Aug 2nd, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 9 comments
    Deutsche Post graphic emphasizing online ordering and shipment integration.
    About a year ago, we ran a short blog about Deutsche Post’s Automated Packstations. Operated via touch screens, Packstation services include 24/7 customer pick-up and the ability to mail parcels and letters as well as print postage. When a parcel arrives, the recipient is notified via e-mail for pick up at the kiosk. Customers can have their packages delivered to a Packstation of their choice. Since our last blog, Packstations have caught on. The numbers have expanded, to about 2,500 Packstations in Germany and over 1 million registered customers. Typically located in high volume pedestrian areas along streets and in commuter rail stations, Packstations offer a myriad of customer choices for items being sent or received. Mailing a parcel from a Packstation is cheaper than mailing a parcel from traditional post office counters, and there is a bonus rewards program as well. Points are earned for sending a package, buying stamps, picking up a package, having a friend register or simply reading the online newsletter. The points are redeemable for shopping vouchers, stamps, and gifts. Austria Post introduced a nearly identical service in 2006. Estonia offers similar parcel terminals, and Dubai’s subway system has made a deal with DHL to install Packstations at certain stations. Can the U.S. Postal Service copy Deutsche Post’s success too? Automated package stations could be a great alternative to traditional post offices and fit neatly into the evolving internet economy – and provide real competition in the package business at the same time! How could this service help you? Would you have any concerns? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Pages