• on May 1st, 2015 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 1 comment

    Here’s the good news: Mailers accept and support the U.S. Postal Service’s Seamless Acceptance (SA) program. And here’s the bad news: Implementing the program hasn’t been very seamless.

    Ongoing data integrity problems, among other concerns, have delayed full implementation of the program. We found evidence of inaccuracy in the data and mailers raised similar concerns, prompting them to ignore the data, according to our recent audit report.

    Not the most auspicious start to a program designed to increase the efficiency of commercial mail entry, verification, and payment. Still, everyone involved wants the program to succeed. SA is expected to make mail acceptance faster and less complex, standardize the acceptance and verification process, and allow for a trend-based quality measurement system.

    Seamless Acceptance uses electronic documentation from a commercial mailer, intelligent mail barcodes, and various scanning devices to verify that the letter and flat mail a mailer is entering meets the Postal Service’s acceptance thresholds and that proper postage is collected. Twenty-nine major mailers have volunteered to participate in SA, tendering about 1.7 billion mailpieces each month. Another 288 mailers volunteered to participate in a preparatory phase of the program known as Seamless Parallel, which helps introduce mailers to SA.

    Our recent audit report noted that while the Postal Service has reported progress in implementing SA, delays continue due to ongoing data integrity issues, as well as customer service and communications hurdles. The Postal Service’s initial goal was to have the full SA program in place by last September. But a series of delays has pushed that date back to July 2015. Notably, problems remain with the scorecard data provided to mailers; postal staff members have limited access to relevant reports and data; and there is inconsistent communication between the Postal Service and participating mailers.

    If you are a commercial mailer currently participating in SA, what are you seeing in terms of data quality, customer service, and communication? If you are not a current participant, are you interested in joining the SA program? If not, what is holding you back?

  • on Apr 13th, 2015 in OIG | 5 comments

    If you’ve rummaged around our website lately, you may have noticed a new tab on our home page entitled Audit Asks. “What is Audit Asks?” you might ask. It’s where you can read about some of our upcoming audits in their early stages and respond to questions that can help us develop more complete and useful audit reports.

    Audit Asks is actually an update of our audit project pages, initially launched about 6 years ago to get feedback from our readers. With the new Audit Asks format, we have added some eye-catching graphics and changed our writing style to prompt more feedback.

    Engaging stakeholders is important to us, as this blog attests. Your comments provide valuable insights and can help guide the direction of our audits, as well as our findings. This is also your opportunity to send links to documents you think will be useful during the audit planning phase. During this phase the audit team learns about the subject, collects a broad range of data, contacts key experts and stakeholders, and develops the specific objectives of the audit. This is when we decide on the breadth and depth of the topic of the report.

    Right now, for example, you can let us know about your experience with reduced window hours at select post offices and whether you think this will generate the intended savings. Or you can tell us what you think about voting by mail or your views on the new mobile delivery devices used to track packages and communicate with local post offices.

    Are you following us on Twitter and Facebook? It’s a great way to be informed when the audit announcements are posted in Audit Asks.

    And while we’re asking, are there specific issues you believe merit a U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General audit? We conduct objective, independent audits of Postal Service programs and operations to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and misconduct, and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. If you have an idea for an audit along any of these lines, we would love to hear from you. 

  • on Apr 3rd, 2015 in Strategy & Public Policy | 0 comments

    In the sage words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you will wind up somewhere else.” So, where does the U.S. Postal Service want to go? Well, by 2016 it hopes to end up a lot closer to solvency. And to get there, it developed the Delivering Results, Innovation, Value and Efficiency (DRIVE) management process.

    DRIVE is a portfolio of strategic initiatives the Postal Service is implementing to meet ambitious performance goals and close its $20 billion financial gap. Each initiative is made of specific projects, goals, and milestones all leading toward a broad, overarching goal. The Postal Service began its DRIVE initiatives in 2011.

    So, how are the DRIVE initiatives working out? Well, the 19 initiatives are in various stages of development, funding, and implementation, and the Postal Service has about $2 billion in available capital to support all of them. The Postal Service said it generated $4.9 billion in new sales opportunities and cut $868 million in costs through DRIVE. It also reported that it has revitalized its Priority Mail package service and reduced its facilities footprint by more than 3 million feet.

    We’ve been keeping an eye on this process and have completed three DRIVE audits. Our reports looked at overall management of DRIVE (DP-AR-13-008), Initiative 6 (DP-AR-14-001), which aims to improve employee availability, and Initiative 42 (DP-AR-14-005), which focused on marketing new and existing services.

    Our first audit found DRIVE program management compares favorably to best-in-class program management practices – but there are opportunities for improvement. The other two reports reviewed specific initiatives and urged improvements, such as setting more aggressive goals, promoting accountability, and accurately measuring achievement. For example, one of the goals of Initiative 42 was to increase shipping and mail revenue by $5.2 billion in fiscal year 2014. As of May 2014, the Postal Service reported reaching $3.4 billion of that goal; however, we found the Postal Service does not have the capability to measure goals against recorded sales. A separate DRIVE initiative is intended to improve this ability to accurately measure goals.

    We are looking at other DRIVE initiatives, as well. But we would like to hear your thoughts on the value of this management tool.

    Do you believe the initiatives discussed here are improving the Postal Service?

    What DRIVE initiatives would you like to see the Postal Service pursue?

    Do you think these initiatives are the best way for the Postal Service to reach solvency? If not, what should it do instead? 

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