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The U. S. Postal Service’s Role as Infrastructure

December 18, 2014 Comments off

The U. S. Postal Service’s Role as Infrastructure
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Throughout its history, the U.S. Postal Service has been part of the nation’s vital infrastructure, facilitating economic activity, improving quality of life, and benefiting wider society in a variety of ways. But the Postal Service is also mandated to operate like a business, which can pose challenges to its public service mission. The resulting tension between the two was easier to manage when postal revenues were sufficient to fully cover the agency’s costs and obligations. But today, the Digital Age is cutting into the volume of the product that contributes more than half of the funds to support the network: First-Class Mail. And this strain has led to more tension between the Postal Service as a public service provider and as a business.

Moreover, new technologies and global commerce are changing the nation’s infrastructure needs. The Postal Service would benefit from more clarity about what it should offer in this evolving environment.

Our white paper, The Postal Service’s Role as Infrastructure, presents three broad options the Postal Service and its stakeholders could consider when deciding how to adapt the Postal Service’s role for the future. These options are not mutually exclusive. But they should be evaluated together so all potential uses are recognized and accounted for as part of major changes to the size and scope of the Postal Service’s infrastructure.

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USPS OIG — Semiannual Report to Congress: April 1 — September 30, 2014

December 5, 2014 Comments off

Semiannual Report to Congress: April 1 — September 30, 2014 (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) – together with the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, Congress, and Postal Service management – plays a key role in maintaining the integrity and accountability of the U.S. Postal Service, its revenue and assets, and its employees through our audit and investigative work.

OIG efforts have resulted in significant savings opportunities and improved efficiencies. The financial impact from our workers’ compensation fraud cases alone more than covers the OIG’s budget. When all of our investigative work and audit and research efforts are taken into account, we are providing strong value to stakeholders as we fulfill our mission of promoting integrity and accountability.

During the 6-month report period ending September 30, 2014, we issued 100 audit reports, management advisories, PARIS risk models and white papers, and the Postal Service accepted 87 percent of our significant recommendations. We completed 2,082 investigations that led to 335 arrests and nearly $573 million in fines, restitutions, and recoveries, $52 million of which went to the Postal Service.

USPS OIG — Guiding Principles for a New Universal Service Obligation

November 19, 2014 Comments off

Guiding Principles for a New Universal Service Obligation
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

The U.S. Postal Service’s universal service obligation (USO), which establishes what mail services the Postal Service must provide, lacks a clear, comprehensive definition. The current USO is assumed to be a hodgepodge of various legal requirements and regulations that, in most cases, provide only broad guidance. For example, while public access to postal services is an important component of USO, there are no specifics about how many access points such as mail collection boxes or post offices must exist.

Add in the disruptive and transformative effects of digital communications, which have cut into mail volumes, and it’s clear that the Postal Service USO needs addressing: What exact services do policy makers and the American public – senders as well as receivers – now need the Postal Service to provide?

Our white paper, Guiding Principles for a New Universal Service Obligation,says that now is the appropriate time to update and clarify the USO. We used lessons learned from existing literature, input from experts, and its own knowledge of the Postal Service to develop six guiding principles, which are intended to help filter the plethora of information and stakeholder input to frame substantive discussion and debate on a new USO.

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New From the GAO

November 13, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Program Evaluation: Some Agencies Reported that Networking, Hiring, and Involving Program Staff Help Build Capacity. GAO-15-25, November 13.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-25
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666894.pdf

2. Alternatives to Detention: Improved Data Collection and Analyses Needed to Better Assess Program Effectiveness. GAO-15-26, November 13.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-26
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666912.pdf

3. U.S. Postal Service: Status of Workforce Reductions and Related Planning Efforts. GAO-15-43, November 13.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-43
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666883.pdf

4. Small Business Health Insurance Exchanges: Low Initial Enrollment Likely due to Multiple, Evolving Factors. GAO-15-58, November 13.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-58
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666874.pdf

5. Indian Affairs: Bureau of Indian Education Needs to Improve Oversight of School Spending. GAO-15-121, November 13.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-121
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666891.pdf

6. Free Trade Agreements: U.S. Partners Are Addressing Labor Commitments, but More Monitoring and Enforcement Are Needed. GAO-15-160, November 6.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-160
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666788.pdf

7. Free Trade Agreements: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Should Continue to Improve Its Monitoring of Environmental Commitments. GAO-15-161, November 6.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-161
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666783.pdf

USPS OIG — National Change of Address Program: Audit Report

November 4, 2014 Comments off

National Change of Address Program: Audit Report (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Background
More than 40 million Americans change their addresses annually and submit change of address (COA) orders to the U.S. Postal Service. Customers can submit orders electronically through the Internet or submit hard copy orders through the mail or at a Post Office retail counter. The Postal Service provides COA information for a fee through National Change of Address Linkage (NCOALink) to licensees who facilitate relationships with business mailers. NCOALink is an application containing about 160 million COA records. The Postal Service requires licensees and their customers to complete a Processing Acknowledgment Form (acknowledgement form) to comply with the Privacy Act of 1974 and document the companies’ intended use of the data.

Our objectives were to determine whether security controls over the COA manual process and NCOALink data adequately protect the confidentiality and integrity of customer data and identify potential solutions for improving the Postal Service’s acknowledgement form process.

What The OIG Found
Security controls over the COA manual processes and NCOALink data are not sufficient to protect the confidentiality and integrity of customer information. We visited one of the 22 Computerized Forwarding System sites and found personnel did not adhere to controls related to processing and retaining hard copy COA orders.

We also determined the Postal Service is using outdated software to [redacted] data. In addition, NCOALink license agreements did not always have sufficient contract provisions to protect customer data, and management did not always monitor these agreements for licensee compliance.

As a result, there is a risk that unauthorized users could access COA data and NCOALink data could be breached, which could lead to fines and a negative impact on the Postal Service brand. We estimated 13,554,542 NCOALink customer records with a potential value of $228 million are at risk.

In addition, management does not have an enterprise solution in place or plan to automate the acknowledgement form process.

Protecting Mail Covers in Law Enforcement Investigations

October 28, 2014 Comments off

Protecting Mail Covers in Law Enforcement Investigations
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

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.

New From the GAO

October 27, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

U.S. Postal Service: Information on Recent Changes to Delivery Standards, Operations, and Performance. GAO-14-828R, September 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-828R

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