• on Feb 14th, 2011 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 12 comments
    [dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] T [/dropcap]he Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the Postal Service to comply with specific sections of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). Among other financial reporting requirements, SOX mandates internal control compliance – making sure that financial transactions are reasonably and fairly presented in the accounting records - and places the responsibility on postal management. A recent district-wide audit of 13 postal retail units found 80 internal control compliance issues related to stamp accountabilities, disbursements, and financial accounting and reporting. The cause for most of these issues was attributed to a lack of adequate training, the insufficient financial background of some unit managers, why they were placed in the position without receiving the necessary financial training, and an absence of oversight by the managers and supervisors responsible for implementing financial internal controls. Why do these managers lack the proper training and background to adequately supervise financial operations? One possibility is the amount of management turnover at retail units. The management turnover rate was high at some retail sites visited during the audit. For example, one retail unit had three different acting station managers in the last 18 months. Often, new or acting managers and supervisors come from different segments of the Postal Service and are placed in positions which require them to supervise financial operations. Is there a benefit for bringing in someone from a different segment to oversee the operations of a retail unit? How should they be trained? Please give your comments. The topic is hosted by the Office of Audit Field Financial – West team.
  • on Feb 7th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments
    [dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] I [/dropcap]n recent years, a growing number of people have chosen to avoid crowded shopping malls by doing their holiday shopping online. To a certain extent, online shopping reduces their carbon footprint by keeping these individuals from driving to and from the store. However, their packages still have to be delivered. What if postal customers could choose to have carbon neutral delivery for an extra fee? In 2009, Itella, Finland’s postal service, introduced a program where customers could pay extra for carbon neutral delivery, adding the “Itella Green” marking to letters for less than a penny or parcels for around five cents. Itella achieved carbon neutrality through a combination of energy efficient delivery vehicles by funding reputable, environmentally-friendly projects. While Itella’s plans include increasing carbon efficiency in all three phases of the package delivery process: sorting, transportation, and delivery, the greatest carbon efficiency gains currently come from their shift to electric or fuel efficient delivery vehicles. On February 1 Itella made the cost of carbon neutrality a standard part of all postage, making it the first country to offer completely carbon neutral delivery. That way, when a customer uses Itella to send a letter, package, or direct mail, they know they are getting zero net emissions. Through their efforts, Itella has made carbon neutral delivery, a key element in developing a “green” reputation and an advantage in competitive areas like package delivery. Is offering carbon neutral delivery as a separate, specialized service that customers can purchase an idea worth exploring for the Postal Service? The Postal Service is already in the process of converting its delivery fleet to cleaner electric vehicles, making carbon neutrality easier to achieve in the coming years. Moreover, does it make sense to give consumers a choice in terms of the environmental friendliness of their mail delivery? Sources: Hellmail Itella This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jan 31st, 2011 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 75 comments
    In 1916, the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) was enacted. FECA provides medical, compensation, death, and other benefits, such as vocational rehabilitation, and nursing services to federal employees who sustain injuries, including occupational diseases, as a result of their employment. All Postal Service employees are covered by FECA. The Department of Labor (DOL) administers FECA and makes all decisions regarding the eligibility of injured workers’ to receive workers’ compensation benefits. DOL provides direct compensation to medical providers, claimants, and beneficiaries. The Postal Service reimburses DOL for all workers’ compensation claims in addition to paying an administrative fee. In fiscal year 2009, the Postal Service workers’ compensation expense was approximately $2.2 billion, an 81 percent increase from $1.2 billion in FY 2008. These costs include $55 million in DOL administrative fees for FY 2009. About 72 percent ($718 million) was a non-cash charge related to changes in the estimated discount and inflation rates used to calculate the liability for future payments. At the end of FY 2009, the Postal Service estimated the total liability for future workers’ compensation cost was over $10 billion. One of the contributing factors to the high cost of workers’ compensation payments is that FECA does not mandate a cut-off age for workers’ compensation benefits. Thus, injured workers can continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits well past the legal retirement age of 65, and in some cases employees over the age of 90 are still receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Fraudulent workers’ compensation claims also result in higher overall costs. To combat workers’ compensation fraud the OIG launched its crime prevention and awareness campaign in September 2009 and a joint year-long initiative with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in February 2010. The successful investigative efforts saved the Postal Service more than $400 million for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 combined. What can the Postal Service do to reduce workers’ compensation costs? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Human Resources and Security Audit Team.

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