The U.S. Postal Service manages 31,702 post offices that provide retail services such as counter assistance, postage stamps, money orders, and Post Office boxes. The Postal Service can relocate post offices from one place to another, typically within the same ZIP Code area, for reasons such as lease issues or space optimization.
The relocation process consists of a concept study, public notification, and site selection. The Postal Service informs local officials and the public of the proposed relocation. Both may comment on and appeal the plan to relocate retail operations. Both may also comment on the final site selection, but neither may appeal it unless it was disclosed during the initial public meeting. The vice president, Facilities, adjudicates appeals.
Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s process for relocating retail operations to other facilities.
What the OIG Found
The process for relocating facilities was not always transparent. Further, the vice president, Facilities, has conflicting responsibilities for approving funding and adjudicating relocation appeals. We reviewed 33 of the 114 relocation projects we identified for fiscal years 2011 through 2013, and found 25 new site selections were not announced until after the public comment and appeal periods ended, and two had undetermined announcement dates. We found that only one of the 25 appeals filed for the 114 projects was upheld, leading management to halt the relocation. Further, the Postal Service could not readily identify the number of relocations and officials did not always efficiently manage the public notification and documentation process.
These conditions occurred because some procedures were unclear and the vice president, Facilities, was authorized to approve funding and adjudicate appeals. Further, there were no requirements to track all relocations and officials did not always know the specific guidelines and processes. Consequently, the public and local officials may not have had the information they needed to make informed comments and determine the impact of a relocation, potentially harming the Postal Service’s relationship with the public.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended the vice president, Facilities, revise regulations and guidelines to enhance transparency and public input for potential alternative site selections. We also recommended modifying the guidance to remove the official’s dual funding and adjudicating responsibilities; establishing a method to track and monitor relocations and documentation requirements and retention periods for relocation files; and training real estate specialists.