No matter the industry, it’s always better to address the root cause of a problem than put a Band-Aid on the symptom.
We find data analytics — which includes data mining, risk assessments, and predictive analytics — lets us find the most effective ways to detect fraud, waste, and mismanagement at the U.S. Postal Service. Data analytics allows us to synthesize data in ways that get to the very core of a problem or inefficiency, so we can then identify possible solutions.
Our reliance on data analytics tools continues to grow as we see results translate into major financial savings and recoveries, improved efficiency, or risk mitigation.
These tools help us best fulfill our mission of ensuring efficiency, accountability, and integrity in the Postal Service.
One of our primary tools, risk models, uses computer programs to find patterns and anomalies that humans can’t easily find. Our special agents and auditors then directly chase a solid lead and spend less time pounding the pavement. This is true whether we are investigating potential health care fraud or looking for best practices within postal operations.
A couple of recent audit reports highlight how useful risk models are for finding weaknesses in USPS financial controls at postal locations. One report on bank deposits from a retail unit in Capital Metro Area found a number of inconsistencies between banking deposits and receipts.
In a separate report, we found refunds and voids of postage for special services at an Illinois branch were not always properly supported. For instance, during a three-month period in early 2018, the refund amounts were more than $210,000 — compared to $104 in the prior year. We saw that employees didn’t complete necessary forms for refunds or the forms used were obsolete. In other instances, customers were issued refunds when they should have been given an exchange of stamps.
By identifying and addressing areas of weakness, the Postal Service can curb waste and inefficiencies. All our internal control reports offer specific recommendations to postal management on how best to tighten controls and eliminate specific problems.
Even with a growing reliance on data analytics, some of our best leads come the old-fashioned way: tips from stakeholders. If you see an area of concern our office should look into, please let us know. (Note: Our comment policy prevents us from posting comments containing personal or sensitive information. To provide specific details, please file a Hotline complaint.)