We conducted this audit in response to a January 27, 2020 congressional request from Senator Margaret Hassan, who raised concerns regarding complaints at multiple Postal Service facilities in New Hampshire. Our objective was to evaluate mail delivery and customer service operations at selected locations.
The Postal Service has an obligation to provide services to bind the nation together through personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence to the public, and to provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to all communities.
From January to May 2020, the Postal Service’s Northern New England District received 29,396 customer complaints regarding mail delivery and customer service. Of those, 12,421 (42 percent) were in the state of New Hampshire and 754 (6 percent) were at the 10 facilities we visited during this audit. There are 1,103 city, rural and contract routes in 151 delivery units in the state of New Hampshire.
We judgmentally selected 10 units to review based on analysis of customer complaints. From December 2019 to May 2020, the 10 selected units delivered more than 7.6 million letters and flats and over 1.4 million packages to more than 35,000 possible delivery points on 70 routes. We conducted site visits in New Hampshire between July 15 and 24, 2020.
Although the Postal Service projected significant revenue declines due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, national package volumes actually increased. We saw the impact of these trends in New Hampshire as package volumes increased over the prior year and at the 10 selected delivery units, package volume was 59 percent higher in May 2020.
Our fieldwork occurred after the President of the United States issued the national emergency declaration concerning the novel coronavirus disease outbreak (COVID-19) on March 13, 2020. The results of the audit reflect, in part, any process and/or operational changes that may have occurred as a result of the pandemic.
In July 2020, the Postal Service implemented a series of nationwide initiatives to improve operational efficiency. These initiatives did not have any impact on our findings.
Nine of the 10 units we visited had delivery delays that occurred during December 2019 and January 2020. Delivery unit management confirmed delayed mail existed in these units during this time period. Furthermore, at five of the 10 delivery units, OIG identified 7,288 pieces of delayed mail (nine percent of 77,318 total pieces) from 25 routes during our site visits in July 2020. Some of this mail had been delayed for two days and was not reported in the Customer Service Daily Reporting System, as required.
These issues occurred because management:
- Did not have sufficient career and non-career staff to sort, distribute, and deliver mail.
- Experienced difficulty in hiring and retaining non-career employees, which supplement the career workforce.
In addition, carriers improperly scanned 61 (18 percent) of 337 packages we sampled in these 10 units. This occurred because delivery unit management and Post Office Operations Managers did not enforce daily mail scanning procedures and directed packages to be scanned with a “stop-the-clock” scan to avoid undelivered packages being reported on the Package Scanning End of Day Report. We made referrals to our Office of Investigations as appropriate.
By improving operations and supervision, the district can improve delivery performance and reduce customer delivery complaints, while meeting the Postal Service’s goal of providing customers with real-time mail visibility.
We recommended management:
- Address staffing issues through coordination with Human Resources to attract and retain qualified candidates for both career and non-career positions.
- Instruct Post Office Operations Managers to develop a plan to monitor and ensure compliance with package scanning standard operating procedures. The plan should include timelines and enforcement mechanisms as appropriate.