If you’re facing a decision – especially a big one – you want to have all the facts so you can make the best choice. It’s also true for organizations, including the U.S. Postal Service. But in one area, as our recent audit found, postal executives may not be getting all the facts they need. In some cases, they’re not getting facts at all.
To keep track of mail moving through the Postal Service’s surface transportation network, employees scan barcodes on trailers as they arrive and depart mail processing plants and facilities. The scans enter a system – Surface Visibility Web 2.0 (SVweb) – which provides the Postal Service with real-time data and reporting on the arrival, departure, and performance status of transiting mail.
If a vehicle is late, an employee enters a specific reason for the delay into SVweb. However, in April 2019, USPS management announced a goal of having no late vehicles, informing plant managers that if any vehicles fail to arrive or depart on time, they would have to explain why.
In October and November 2019, our audit team visited six mail processing facilities in the Capital Metro, Great Lakes, Western, and Pacific Areas to observe scanning procedures and review SVweb data. We also interviewed plant management, supervisors, network specialists, and expeditors.
We found that, while employees were properly scanning trip arrival and departure times, some employees at all six mail processing facilities were later manually editing the actual scan times in SVweb to show trips that were late as on-time. At two facilities, some trip scheduled times were also edited to appear to be on-time. We referred this issue to the Office of Investigations for further review.
Why was this happening? Supervisors requested employees minimize late trips in order to avoid having to explain them. But data integrity becomes an issue when trips and schedules are edited from late to on-time. Using inaccurate data to support management conclusions puts the Postal Service at risk of making wrong operational decisions that can negatively affect the entire transportation network.
We made recommendations to address the issues identified, and USPS management agreed with all, noting it had already addressed in one area.