The objective of our audit was to determine the accuracy of delayed mail reporting at three selected facilities in the Great Lakes Area.
The U.S. Postal Service considers mail to be delayed when it is not processed in time to meet the established delivery day. Mail processing facilities are required to complete daily mail counts and self-report on-hand mail, delayed mail, late-arriving mail, and mail processed after the cut-off time and enter the information into the Web Mail Condition Reporting System (MCRS).
Mail processing facilities use the MCRS to report their daily mail count, providing the Postal Service with a standardized national view of mail conditions at processing facilities. MCRS information is available to management officials at all levels for analysis, forecasting, and planning.
We selected the Detroit Network Distribution Center (NDC) in Allen Park, MI, the Michigan Metroplex Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) in Pontiac, MI, and the Lansing, MI, P&DC for review based on allegations received regarding facilities not accurately reporting delayed mail. We conducted three unannounced site visits on March 6, 2018, at the selected facilities to determine if delayed mail was being accurately reported.
What the OIG Found
We found the facilities accurately reported their delayed mail and there was no significant difference between our counts and Postal Service’s reported delayed mail volumes on the day of our observations. Specifically, there was a difference of 1,062 pieces, or about 0.31 percent, between our count and the amount reported in MCRS for the three facilities.
However, the Michigan Metroplex and Lansing P&DCs did not include all late arriving mail and plan failure mail (mail processed after the established cut-off time for completing mail processing) in their MCRS reports. According to the Mail History Tracking System and the Enterprise Data Warehouse, the P&DCs had about 5,500 pieces of late arriving mail and over 690,000 pieces of plan failure mail on the date of our observations; however, the facilities reported no late arriving mail and only 83,000 pieces (or about 12 percent) of the plan failure in their MCRS reports. Management at both facilities said they were not aware of the requirement to include late arriving and plan failure mail in their MCRS reports.
A prior OIG report identified these issues at other mail processing facilities across the nation and we have an open recommendation to correct the issue. When mail condition reports are not accurate, management uses incorrect information to make decisions on staffing, mail processing equipment use, transportation of mail, and preventive maintenance. This can ultimately affect performance goals and service standards.
We also inspected parked trailers at the three facilities for unaccounted mail and found a trailer at the Detroit NDC with 1,841 pieces of First-Class Mail and two pieces of Priority Mail dated as old as November 2017 mixed in with the Undeliverable Bulk Business Mail (UBBM) mail for recycling. These mailpieces did not have any markings showing they were undeliverable or to be returned to sender and they were processed for delivery. We determined which delivery units were responsible for some of these mailpieces and referred this information to our Office of Investigations.
UBBM is mail the Postal Service cannot deliver because of an expired change of address; or an incorrect, incomplete, or illegible address. By agreement, the Postal Service does not return UBBM to the business mailer, but recycles it. The Detroit NDC is a recycling center for other facilities to send their UBBM mail for compacting.
Management was unaware that deliverable mail was mixed in with the UBBM for over a month. They said the delivery units are responsible for inspecting the mail to ensure there is no deliverable mail included before it is sent to them for recycling.
Management took immediate action when we notified them of the mail we found in the trailer. All of the mail was sorted and any mail that was considered deliverable was taken to mail processing. When Postal Service staff does not verify that UBBM does not contain deliverable mail, there is a risk deliverable mail could be destroyed.
In addition, the three facilities did not have accurate operating plans that reflected current mail processing operations. Specifically:
- The Detroit NDC’s operating plan dated January 2012 did not list start and end times for sorting Priority Mail.
- The Michigan Metroplex P&DC’s operating plan dated September 2016 had scheduled mail arriving at the facility past the critical start and end times.
- The Lansing P&DC’s operating plan dated December 2003 did not reflect that mail cancelation is no longer performed at this facility.
Great Lakes Area management agreed that they should review and update operating plans annually. They said the next review would be in the spring of 2018, but have not set a specific date. Postal Service policy requires accurate operating plans to assist management in the scheduling, processing, and delivery of mail volume. When operating plans are not accurate, there is an increased risk that mail will not be processed in time to meet its service performance goal.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management ensure that:
- Staff responsible for daily MCRS reporting are trained so they are aware of the requirement to include late arriving and plan failure mail;
- Delivery unit staff in the Great Lakes Area are following standard operating procedures for handling UBBM;
- Plant management at the Detroit NDC develop a standard operating procedure to verify deliverable mail is not mixed in with UBBM when it is received at the facility; and
- All Great Lakes Area mail processing facilities have accurate operating plans that reflect current mail processing operations.