A U.S. Postal Service plan to realign its mail processing and distribution infrastructure due to increased competition, higher costs and declining mail volumes lacks accountability, stakeholder input and performance measures for results, according to government auditors.
The Postal Service said in light of marketplace changes it could increase efficiency and reduce expenses by realigning its mail processing and distribution infrastructure. However, the Government Accountability Office said the USPS proposal was lacking on many fronts.
“Questions remain about how the Service intends to realign its processing and distribution infrastructure and workforce. The Service’s strategy for realigning has not been clear because the Service has outlined several seemingly different strategies over the past three years. None of these strategies include criteria and processes for eliminating excess capacity, which may prolong inefficiencies. Also, the strategy lacks sufficient transparency and accountability, excludes stakeholder input, and lacks performance measures for results,” the GAO report stated.
GAO’s report noted that several major changes have affected mail processing and distribution operations, including marketplace changes such as declines in First-Class Mail and increased competition; increased automation and mail processing by mailers; and shifts in population demographics. Effects of these changes, GAO noted, include excess capacity in the mail processing and distribution infrastructure and variations in productivity among plants.
As a result, USPS is exploring ways to realign its infrastructure by closing annexes, consolidating operations, and employing tools to model its infrastructure needs, while at the same time attempting to increase efficiencies in its current operations by expanding automation, improving material handling operations, creating a comprehensive transportation network, and introducing standardization programs.
GAO recommended the following actions for USPS:
- To enhance USPS’ transparency of its decisions related to realigning its infrastructure, the Postmaster General should establish a set of criteria for evaluating realignment decisions and a mechanism for informing stakeholders as decisions are made.
- To enhance accountability for these decisions, the Postmaster General should develop a process for implementing these decisions that includes evaluating and measuring the results, as well as the actual costs and savings resulting from the decisions.