Delayed Mail Validation
The U.S. Postal Service considers mail to be delayed when it is not processed in time to meet the established delivery day. Mail processing facilities are required to complete daily counts and self-report on-hand mail, delayed mail, late arriving mail, and mail processed after the processing cut-off time. Mail processing personnel are to complete daily mail counts by 7 a.m.
Mail processing facilities use the Mail Condition Reporting System (MCRS) to report their daily mail count, providing the Postal Service with a standardized national view of mail conditions at processing facilities. MCRS information is available to management officials at all levels for analysis, forecasting, and planning.
We judgmentally selected eight Processing and Distribution Centers (P&DC) for review based on changes in their delayed mail reported from fiscal year (FY) 2014 to FY 2016. We conducted our observations at the Brooklyn, NY; Dallas, TX; Greenville, SC; Louisville, KY; Mobile, AL; Omaha, NE; Southern Maryland; and South Suburban, IL, P&DCs in February 2017.
Our objective was to determine the accuracy of the Postal Service’s delayed mail reporting.
What the OIG Found
We found that the Postal Service was not accurately reporting delayed mail.
We determined that five of the eight P&DCs we visited did not accurately count on-hand delayed mail. Specifically, we determined that there were more than 572,000 on-hand delayed mailpieces during our two days of observations; however, the P&DCs only reported about 369,000 on-hand delayed mailpieces (or about 64 percent) in their MCRS reports for that time period. This occurred because employees were not properly supervised and trained in counting and reporting delayed mail.
In addition, P&DC management did not have procedures in place to periodically reconcile MCRS entries to actual on-hand mail volume to ensure accuracy. According to Headquarters Network Operations management, there was no formal training for conducting daily mail counts and reporting delayed mail.
Additionally, the eight P&DCs did not include all late arriving mail in their MCRS reports. According to the Postal Service’s Mail History Tracking System (MHTS), the eight P&DCs 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 MCRS reports. We projected that nationally from March 1, 2016, through February 28, 2017, mail processing facilities underreported late arriving mail by about 2 billion mailpieces.
Further, the eight P&DCs did not report all mail processed after the established cut-off time for completing mail processing in their MCRS reports. Based on data in the Postal Service’s Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW), the P&DCs processed about 7.5 million mailpieces after their cut-off time during the week of our observations; however, they only included about 868,000 mailpieces (or less than 12 percent) in their MCRS reports. This mail is not necessarily delayed; however, it should be included in the MCRS report as a processing plan failure.
Mail processing facilities are not required to report information from MHTS or EDW in their MCRS reports; however, using this information would provide P&DC management with a more accurate view of current mail conditions.
When mail condition reports are not accurate, management uses incorrect information to make decisions on staffing, mail processing equipment use, preventative maintenance, and the transportation of mail. These decisions affect the Postal Service’s ability to meet its mail service commitments.
Headquarters Enterprise Analytics management said they are planning to replace the MCRS with the Informed Visibility system to capture daily mail conditions. An initial pilot has been conducted and as of August 2017, the next pilot is on hold while the Postal Service simplifies mail condition calculations. We plan to look at the Informed Visibility system’s delayed mail reporting in future audit work.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management require formal training for all personnel involved in supervising, conducting, and reporting daily mail counts; ensure P&DC management periodically reviews the accuracy of MCRS reports; and improve the MCRS by integrating data from the Mail History Tracking System and Enterprise Data Warehouse.