During fiscal year (FY) 2017 and 2018, the Postal Service hired 165,543 employees nationwide. Applicants must complete the initial pre-screening process, which is the first step in determining suitability for an initial job offer. The pre-screening process includes conducting the interview, drug screening, and local criminal background check.
Upon acceptance of the job offer and to further assess suitability, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducts a more in-depth background investigation called the National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI).
NACI investigations are conducted for all newly hired employees as part of the post-hiring process. Based on the NACI results, the Postal Service makes a final suitability determination and the employee is either retained or separated. During the hiring process, controls are implemented to help ensure that appropriate due diligence (reviews, approval certifications, justifications, etc.) is applied.
Our objective was to assess the U.S. Postal Service’s employee background screening process to determine whether individuals selected for employment are suitable to maintain the safety and security of the mail and uphold public trust in the Postal Service. Our focus was employees with either a criminal hit on the pre-screening assessment, or unfavorable NACI results.
We conducted a two-part statistical sample to review a total of 401 employees hired nationwide during FYs 2017 and 2018. The sample was comprised of:
- Two hundred of 5,269 employees who were hired with a criminal hit on their pre-screening background check; and
- Two hundred and one of 6,273 employees who were hired and received an unfavorable NACI determination.
What the OIG Found
The Postal Service did not always adhere to background screening requirements in determining applicant suitability for employees with either a criminal hit on the pre-screening assessment, or unfavorable NACI results.
Of the employees we sampled who were hired with a criminal hit on their pre-screening background check:
- Twenty-one percent (42 of 200), or 1,106 projected over the universe, had no evidence of the required hiring approval certification.
- Four percent (seven of 200), or 211 projected over the universe, had no evidence of the required NACI investigation being conducted. Two individuals are currently employed with the Postal Service, and five have separated from the agency.
We also identified:
- Thirty-four percent (135 of 401) of the employees, or 3,902 projected over the universe, did not have a NACI Certificate of Completion maintained in their electronic Official Personnel Folders (eOPF), as required.
- There are inconsistent practices among the districts related to making final suitability determinations and maintaining adequate justification documentation.
These conditions occurred because the current hiring process lacks controls to validate compliance with approval certification, NACI investigations, and eOPF requirements. Additionally, for employees who receive unfavorable NACI results, there are inconsistent practices among the districts related to making final suitability determination and maintaining justification documentation because there is no formal policy or procedure promoting consistent behaviors or desired actions of management.
Ineffective controls impact the assurance that objectives are being met, the reliability of information in the decision-making process, and compliance with policy. The control gaps identified in the hiring process increase the risk that employees are not being adequately vetted for suitability and prevent timely identification of noncompliance with requirements.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management incorporate a review process to ensure compliance with prescribed requirements; incorporate procedures to enhance visibility in tracking and monitoring of NACI investigations; and conduct NACI investigations for the two active employees without evidence of the investigation on file.
We also recommended management implement a review process to ensure validation that NACI Certificates of Completion are in employees’ eOPFs; and establish a formal policy designating the authority to make final suitability determinations for employees who receive unfavorable NACI results.