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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

CRS — The U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Condition: A Primer (September 22, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Condition: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since 1971, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been a self-supporting government agency that covers its operating costs with revenues generated through the sales of postage and related products and services.

The USPS is experiencing significant financial challenges. After running modest profits from FY2003 through FY2006, the USPS lost $45.6 billion between FY2007 and FY2013. Since FY2011, the USPS has defaulted on $16.7 billion in payments to its Retiree Health Benefits Fund (RHBF). The agency reached its $15 billion borrowing limit in FY2012 and did not reduce its total debt in FY2013. In October 2012, the USPS bolstered its liquidity by withdrawing all of the cash from its competitive products fund. This fund has not been replenished since that time.

While the financial condition of the postal service slightly improved in FY2013, both revenues and expenses have increased through the first three quarters of FY2014. Compared with the same point in FY2013, expenses are $1.4 billion higher while revenues have increased by $1.0 billion.

The USPS’s recent financial difficulties are partially the product of reduced demand. The agency has experienced a 21.7% drop in mail volume during the past 10 years. Additionally, during the past decade the “mail mix” has shifted. A growing portion of the mail is advertising mail, which yields low profits. Concurrently, the annual volume of first-class letters, which are highly profitable, has been dropping steadily, at least in part due to mailers shifting to electronic communications. As a result, the Postal Service’s revenues in FY2013 were lower than they were in FY2004. Additionally, the Postal Service’s liquidity has decreased and its debt has increased because of the statutorily mandated payments that must be made to the RHBF each year.

This report discusses these issues in more detail, and it will be updated after the USPS releases its FY2014 year-end financial results in November 2014 and in the interim should there be any significant developments.

USPS OIG — Mail Innovations

September 30, 2014 Comments off

Mail Innovations
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Despite the sharp increase in digital communications in recent years, mail still elicits a strong connection with recipients. Past work by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) reveals that mail is a critical piece of an omnichannel strategy, which gives consumers a seamless and meaningful experience across a variety of media channels and provides marketers with a rich source of useful information. Now, more than ever, advertising campaigns must compete for recipients’ attention, as people are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of advertisements on a daily basis. To give consumers of all ages advertising messages that are relevant, interesting, and dynamic, mailers can incorporate a number of innovations into their mailpieces. These innovations can allow the marketing message to stand out, either by providing additional content in an easily accessible digital space, incorporating handy electronics into the mailpiece, or using unique materials and design to capture the reader’s attention.

This paper provides an overview of ten mail innovations that range from commonly used and well-known tools to some that are still emerging, and even one that is still in the research and development phase. The OIG interviewed companies that create and support these innovations to learn more about them and what they can do to strengthen a mail campaign. These innovations can be more effective engaging customers and garnering a positive response, either in terms of recipient feedback or sales metrics.

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