By Holly Wilson
In the past we’ve written extensively about the United States Postal Service (USPS) and their annual multi-billion dollar deficits (going on 10 years now), questionable accounting practices, attempts to venture into business areas completely unrelated to their mission at an undisclosed cost to taxpayers, as well as their failure to properly screen and collect duties on international mail. The USPS’s unwillingness to be open with their business practices and finances as it relates to all of the above is troubling as they continue to seek favor with Congress and pursue taxpayer subsidies and bailouts.
Now, in a report released last month, the Inspector General of the USPS – at the request of Congress – looked into practices related to $5.6 billion paid out between 2009 and 2015 under the “commercial products and services portfolio” – a budget category that includes contracts related to strategic consulting, logistics and fulfillment, market research and brand management, and financial and accounting services among other topics.
What the Inspector General found is concerning.
Over a six week period, the Inspector General requested that the Postal Service produce all external studies contracted for between 2009 and 2015. During this time, 30 of the 97 could not be located. Although 26 of the missing 30 studies were eventually located and produced, four remain missing.
No system of storage exists for these presumably costly external studies; therefore, there was no way to efficiently produce them when asked – and certainly no way to share information effectively between employees and departments, unless the individual who requested the study took action to do so.
This is a symptom of a much larger problem at the USPS. A chronic lack of efficiency and fiscal responsibility is to blame.
Were these external studies useful? Did all employees that could benefit from the information contained in them have access? How was the request of duplicate studies prevented? This report shows that none of these questions were considered by management.
While the USPS has pledged to fix this problem, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If this is how the storage of external studies was (mis)managed, what does that say about the USPS leadership’s ability to properly scrutinize and manage the execution of their core mission, as well as their other ill-advised programs and pursuits into uncharted territories such as grocery delivery?
Perhaps more importantly, we need the USPS to be more open and transparent. Throughout the Inspector General’s report, the exact dollar amount of funds related to these external studies was redacted. What is there to hide?
The USPS has a record of playing fast and loose with the numbers, as well as spending irresponsibly. Congress must hold them accountable and we, the people, should not be subjected to redacted and purposely vague and misleading financials from a quasi-governmental agency that continually seeks our help to stay afloat.
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan
By Holly Wilson