The U.S. Postal Service is in the middle of a difficult transition to position itself as a 21st century communications provider. The Postal Service sees new opportunities, but its current cash shortage makes it difficult to invest in modernizing aging facilities and vehicles, or developing new products to serve changing communications and delivery needs. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are an increasingly popular way for governments to achieve policy goals and develop infrastructure, while shifting short-term financial burdens away from taxpayers and strained government coffers. 

Unlike a traditional procurement, in a PPP the private sector partner usually shares in the risks and benefits of the project. For example, a company could build and manage a toll road under a contract with a government transportation agency, and recoup its investment by collecting tolls. In the postal sector, a common PPP is for entrepreneurs to manage post offices. The Postal Service has entered into similar partnerships through its contract postal unit program and agreements with several retailers. Some foreign postal operators have gone further by having all or almost all of their post offices run by private partners. If the post office ends up earning less revenue than projected, the postal operator avoids being stuck with a money-losing facility.

The Postal Service Office of Inspector (OIG) recently released a white paper entitled Public Private Partnerships: Best Practices and Opportunities for the Postal Service. The white paper recommends that the Postal Service consider opportunities for new PPPs to generate cash, reduce costs, make spending flexible so it varies along with volume, and leverage private sector expertise in developing new products for the digital age.

This white paper reviews lessons learned from PPPs in the international postal sector and from nonpostal U.S. government agencies. Despite PPP’s potential benefits, government agencies should perform careful analysis before entering into one, as they usually involve higher long-term project finance costs in exchange for increased flexibility and risk-sharing. Over the years, government agencies have developed a set of best practices to ensure that a PPP is a good deal for the public. One common lesson is that there are significant benefits to creating a central office to facilitate PPPs, coordinate with private entities, and to collect and share best practices throughout an agency.

Do you think these types of partnerships would benefit the Postal Service? From your experience and observations, which partnerships have been helpful to the Postal Service and its customers? What specific opportunities exist for additional partnerships between the Postal Service and the private sector? Are there any downsides to such partnerships? 

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  • anon

    Actually I think your article is completely absurd from the very beginning. The USPS doesn’t “burden” the taxpayer because we don’t use tax money. We are also not a “business” but a Constitutional “service” for the people. If we would get BIG government out of making decisions against us we would be fine. The prest day Congress is a good example of how confussed this country is and what bad shape we are in economically. What is moderization within the Postal system? It seems management feels that spending millions of dollars on machinery that raises costs instead of paying a worker a decent wage to do a proper job. By creating jobs the USPS would also increase the economy by giving people money to spend. Also, the Post Office only makes money from the products it sells: stamps; Express mail; Priority mail; Fist Class mail, etc… And yet all mail is treated the same except for Express which is garanteed. By forcing the Post Office to consolidate offices the gas money alone for trucks to carry the mail from smaller closed down offices to hub offices and then back again surely shows waste. And yet your article says that the Post Office needs to modernize; then why are they not converting the over night trucks to bio-fuels? The Post Office also has it’s own watch dog group that won’t allow the USPS to expand their products. Look at the Japanese Post Offices for example, they have ATM’s; Internet Service, etc… which make more money for them than the mail. Well, needless to say I could go own for quite sometime, and since I recently called the OIG with some points of interest on improvement and was hung up on; I will simply say: Look at Post Master General Donahoe’s pay check- $800,000. More than even a Congress person makes. So, where’s the money going you ask?

    Jul 10, 2013
  • anon

    Would you be able to point out or link to where the white paper has been published? I was unable to locate it on your site.

    Jul 10, 2013
  • anon

    <p>Hi! Thank you for asking. The white paper is located here:</p> <p><a href=""></a></p>

    Jul 10, 2013
  • anon

    Hi! The link is still not working. I would love to read the article if you could repost a working link. Thank you!

    Jul 14, 2013
  • Steve's picture

    <p>Please try this link.</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p>Thank You!</p>

    Jul 14, 2013

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