In the last several months we’ve seen a lot of post offices suspend operations due to extreme weather. But natural disasters aren’t the only reason for emergency suspensions.
U.S. Postal Service district managers may also suspend the operations of any post office, station, or branch under its jurisdiction for:
- Termination of a lease or rental agreement;
- Lack of qualified personnel to operate the office;
- Irreparable damage with no suitable alternate quarters available;
- Severe damage to, or destruction of an office;
- Challenge to the sanctity of the mail; and
- Lack of adequate measures to safeguard the office or its revenue.
Phew, that’s a lot of reasons. So, it makes sense that district managers follow established policies and procedures. Our latest audit report indicates the Eastern Area fell short in that regard. Notably, district personnel did not consistently comply with policies and procedures to ensure suspension decisions had an independent review, customers were appropriately notified, required approvals were obtained, or action plans were developed.
We reviewed the Eastern Area because it had 94 emergency suspensions in fiscal year 2017, or 28 percent of the total 331 nationwide — the most of any area.
Our report also noted that policies and procedures need to be improved so that district personnel can approve and resolve suspensions in a timely manner. The procedures should also include communication requirements, such as informing the public of suspension status throughout the process. We recommended the Postal Service develop standard operating procedures that are more comprehensive regarding roles and responsibilities, deliverables, monitoring, and communication protocols.
If you’ve experienced a post office suspension in your area, what procedural improvements would you like to see?