Audit Report – HR-AR-14-001 – May 28, 2014

The outside of an envelope can be an effective tool in law enforcement investigations. In fiscal year 2013 alone, the Postal Inspection Service processed about 49,000 mail covers that were used to protect national security, locate fugitives, obtain evidence, or help locate stolen property.

But significant privacy issues govern the handling of mailpieces and the information on them. For that reason, the Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service must follow detailed procedures before allowing a mail cover.

The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General recently reviewed 196 external mail covers and found some controls lacking. For example, 21 percent of the covers we examined were approved without the required written authorization and 13 percent were not adequately justified. Inadequate controls could impede investigations, raise public concerns about the privacy of the mail, and harm the Postal Service’s brand. The OIG made a number of recommendations to improve the management and integrity of the mail cover program. 

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