The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the U.S. Postal Service to report its annual review and mail volume to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Origin-Destination Information System-Revenue, Pieces, and Weight (ODIS-RPW) is a continuous, national probability statistical sampling system that provides statistical estimates of destinating mail revenue, volume, and weight. The Postal Service uses the data to develop new postage rates, conduct studies, prepare its budget, and support decisions on mail operations.

As part of this process, data collection technicians conduct statistical mail tests. The tests include sampling live mail and collecting data to estimate stamp use to calculate postage bought by the public but not used. The U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors contracted with an independent public accounting firm to express opinions on financial statements and internal controls over financial reporting. The firm uses the ODIS-RPW data to support its opinions. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General coordinates audit work with the independent public accounting firm to ensure adequate coverage.

Our objective was to determine whether the Postal Service conducted statistical mail tests in accordance with established policies and procedures.

What the OIG Found

Data collection technicians did not always follow policies and procedures when conducting system tests. We observed 47 tests in 16 districts and identified issues in three districts. Specifically, technicians did not always properly:

  • Identify and isolate test mail.
  • Apply correct sampling methodology.
  • Enter mailpiece data into the laptop computer.

These issues are similar to those previously reported. In response to our prior reports and discussions throughout the year on the issues, management updated several draft versions of statistical programs handbooks and provided individualized and quarterly group training.

When data collection technicians do not properly perform the tests, there is an increased risk management relies on incorrect data to support decisions concerning mail operations.

What the OIG Recommended

We believe corrective actions taken by management to update policy and provide training as the issues were identified have been effective. Therefore we are not making a recommendation.

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Comments (3)

  • anon

    This comment is being addressed to one of the 2016 findings referenced below: A data collector incorrectly entered the postage value for three International Forever Stamps. The data collector valued each stamp as $1.20 instead of $1.15. Statistical Programs management pushes all price updates to CODES laptop computers at the end of each quarter. However, in this instance, the update did not include the April 10, 2016, price update (Notice 123, Price List) because it occurred after the second quarter cut-off date. In the interim, Statistical Programs management emailed the price update to all district management, who then forwarded the information to the data collectors. According to Postal Service policy,18 International Forever Stamps are always valued at the prevailing First-Class Mail International 1-ounce letter rate, regardless of when they were purchased or used since they are nondenominated postage.19 The data collector acknowledged that he had been out of the office and had not read all of his emails, so he was not aware of the updated price list. My Comment: Using a 'key what you see' policy may help avoid incorrect price value of an International Forever Stamp being recorded by a DCT. In 2016, there may have been three or four International Forever Stamps available. Perhaps the images of these stamps can be incorporated into the software where DCT selects the International Forever Stamp from the software screen by matching the stamp appearing from the live test mail being recorded. DCT should also indicate the number of International Forever Stamps. The current stamp value (International Forever Stamp) can then be determined by the software using mailpiece characteristics entered by DCT.

    Nov 06, 2017
  • anon

    I was an employee of the USPS Statistical Programs Service Center (a HQ Field Unit) in Memphis, TN from 1984 until 2001until our unit was closed and all 4 employees were obliged to take an early retirement. (SUPPOSEDLY due to high travel costs from the Memphis area to field units.) I was an EAS-20 at that point. In reading your report, you saw only a small fraction of the problems with field data collectors. I made 200+ trips to field offices ranging from overnight trips to 2 month details and I saw a lot of problems. If someone would like to talk someday, send me an email. Thanks, Steve Billings Memphis, TN

    Mar 19, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Steve. I was actually looking into a detail assignment for Stats programs. Did you like doing it? Any pros and cons? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Sep 21, 2017