The U.S. Postal Service requires daily mail counts at all processing facilities. Postal Service employees put information related to mail volume and the prior day’s processing into the Web Mail Condition Reporting System. This information is available to management for planning, operational analysis, and forecasting. In addition, the Postal Service uses a color-coding system to facilitate timely movement of Standard Mail. Employees assign color-code tags to Standard Mail® containers based on the day of the week they arrive at a processing facility. This enables easy processing of mail using the first-in-first-out method.
The Chicago District manager asked the U.S Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) to review mail counting and color-coding procedures in two processing facilities within the Chicago District. The Chicago Metro Surface Center processes over 1.5 million packages a week and the processing facilities handle over 14,500 containers of Standard Mail a week.
Our objective was to determine whether Chicago District processing facility employees accurately counted mail and applied color-code tags to Standard Mail in accordance with policies.
What the OIG Found
Chicago District processing facilities’ mail counts were inaccurate and employees did not accurately color code Standard Mail. Total mail volume reported for on-hand and delayed mail for both outgoing Priority Mail and Standard Mail during our observations at the Chicago Metro Surface Center was about 1.3 million mailpieces.
The mail count submitted under-reported on-hand and delayed mail by 344,300 mailpieces (or 25 percent) and employees did not report the date of the oldest mail at the facility. In addition, 354 of 1,044 Standard Mail containers we reviewed (or 34 percent) did not have color-code tags, had tags that were missing the date and time of mail arrival, or had tags of the wrong color. These conditions occurred because Postal Service employees had inadequate knowledge of the requirements for mail counting and color coding of Standard Mail.
According to Postal Service policy, all mail at a facility must be counted and reported (including delayed mail) with a notation identifying the mail that has been at the facility the longest. In addition, policy requires employees to assign color-coded tags to Standard Mail pieces based on the day of the week they arrive at a processing facility. Employees must write the time and date the mail was received on the color-code tag.
Inaccurate reporting of mail volume and delayed mail affects management’s ability to accurately plan, analyze, and forecast. Improperly color-coded mail can be processed later than intended, which can delay the processing, dispatch, and delivery of Standard Mail.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended the Chicago District manager direct plant managers to develop an ongoing program to ensure all new and existing employees have sufficient knowledge to conduct and report daily mail counts and accurately apply color-code tags to Standard Mail containers.