Thursday, September 21, 2017

Probe finds postal workers delayed lots of mail, then badly under-reported the delays

Weekly newspaper publishers have noticed that deliveries outside their home counties have slowed. Now an investigation by the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General found that postal workers deliberately slowed the delivery of more than 2 billion mailed items in the year studied. It said workers also manipulated delivery records and inaccurately reported delays.

The eight processing facilities examined "had about 1.8 million late arriving mailpieces during the week of our observations; however, the facilities only included 121,000 of them (or less than 7 percent)" in their mail-condition reports, the OIG said in the report. The centers were chosen "based on changes in their delayed mail reported" from fiscal year 2014 to 2016: Brooklyn, Dallas, Greenville, S.C.; Louisville; Mobile; Omaha; Southern Maryland; and South Suburban, a Chicago center.

Some employees said they delayed mail so workers on a slow shift would have something to do. "Investigators discovered more than 572,000 delayed mail items on land. However, postal officials were only reporting 369,000 delays, essentially hiding 36 percent of the problem," Larry Mayer reports for The Billings Gazette.

The Postal Service has struggled in recent years, with mail volume decreasing as online activity increases. And Congress has required it to set aside $5.5 billion a year to pre-fund health benefits for future employees, resulting in cuts to staffing and service. "USPS is the only government agency expected to pay for benefits decades in advance, and the cost burden has resulted in cuts to staffing and service," Mayer reports. That can mean even slower delivery times for mail, especially in rural areas.

The day the report was released, Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., called for those responsible to be fired. Tester is on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees, which handle Postal Service issues. "Any employee who deliberately delayed mail delivery, or who knowingly misreported mail delivery should be terminated for violating the trust of America’s hardworking taxpayers and postal ratepayers," he said.

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