• on Nov 7th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 18 comments
    U.S. Postal Service Mail Transport Equipment (MTE) consists of specialized containers such as sacks, pouches, trays, hampers, over-the-road containers and pallets. Although the Postal Service does not maintain a perpetual inventory of its MTE, a 2010 audit indicated approximately 359 million pieces in the system of 400 processing facilities, over 30,000 post offices and thousands of mailers nationwide. Proper MTE management and availability ensure the safe, secure, and timely movement of mail between Postal Service facilities and its customers or contractors MTE may be used only to transport mail, and borrowers of MTE (such as private mailers) are responsible for its proper use and return. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Over the past few years Postal Service has experienced a significant loss of plastic and wooden pallets. Since fiscal year 2005 the Postal Service has spent over $240 million on close to 19 million plastic and wooden pallets, many of which can no longer be accounted for internally or externally. Realizing the significant cost of leakage of MTE from its inventory, the Postal Service has studied both the movement of MTE as well as ways to reduce leakage. As a result of its precarious financial condition and a freeze on all information technology initiatives, two technological initiatives to better track MTE have been shelved. The Postal Inspection Service has been proactive in both reaching out to the public on this issue, and investigating MTE theft and misuse. The Inspection Service has an ongoing national MTE recovery initiative to locate misappropriated and misused MTE, especially pallets. What do you think about the MTE situation? Is there a cost-efficient way to track MTE? What else should the Postal Service do to reduce leakage? What are your experiences using plastic or wooden pallets? Give your comments below. And if you know of any pallets or other MTE being misused or taken from the system, contact the OIG Hotline, which accepts confidential and anonymous complaints. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Transportation Directorate.
  • on Oct 31st, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 13 comments
    When mailing a letter that weighs about one ounce, the U.S. Postal Service’s 44 cents is one of lowest First Class postage rates. Whether you are mailing a letter locally or sending a greeting card across country, it still only costs 44 cents now, but will increase to 45 cents in January. The graph below compares the U.S. Postal Service’s postage rate with other countries. As you can see, Norway charges the highest rate, which is nearly four times the cost U.S. rate.

     

    Source: 2011 Office of Inspector General analysis of Universal Postal Union data

    Some might feel it is reasonable for the Postal Service to increase rates and charge a fee comparable to those in other countries. On the contrary, others might say the Postal Service’s rate must remain at an affordable level, especially for people with lower incomes. They might also say raising the rate to a level found elsewhere would drive customers away even faster. When you think about prices paid for other goods and services, just how far does 44, 50, or even 75 cents go? By comparison, a small cup of coffee at McDonalds costs a dollar, a gallon of gasoline is over $3, and a gallon of milk is about $4. Share your thoughts below. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Financial Reporting Directorate.
  • on Oct 24th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 39 comments
    A Contract Postal Unit (CPU) is a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment, such as supermarkets, card and gift shops, pharmacies, and colleges. CPUs are operated by the retailer's employees and offer the same basic services available at a regular Post Office. The Village Post Office (VPO) concept was introduced earlier this year and is similar to the CPU in that they are retail postal facilities operated by community businesses. However, they provide limited postal products and services. CPUs and VPOs lower U.S. Postal Service expenses, primarily because they use already existing retail stores. The Postal Service does not have to rent its own store and hire dedicated staff. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, CPUs accounted for 8 percent of the Postal Service’s total retail network. In comparison, Canada has private dealer – operated outlets, which are similar to CPUs and account for more than 39 percent of Canada Posts® retail outlets; Australia has Licensed Post Offices and Community Postal Agencies, which are also similar to CPUs and account for 81 percent of Australia Posts® retail network. Expanding the use of CPUs and VPOs could assist the Postal Service in reducing its physical footprint, lowering expenses, providing more outlets for products and services, and potentially increasing access hours. What do you think? Would a system of CPU and VPOs better serve the current market? Do you have any concerns with the concept? Please share your thoughts and ideas. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Financial Control Directorate.

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