Published: August 2006

GAO report blasts Postal Service performance standards

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released July 27 is highly critical of the U.S. Postal Service, and recommends that USPS take actions to modernize its delivery standards, implement delivery performance measures for major categories of mail and improve public accessibility of delivery performance standards, measures and results.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued at the request of Susan Collins, R-ME, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Tom Carper, D-DE, was released July 27. The lawmakers had asked the GAO to assess USPS delivery performance standards for timely mail delivery. The GAO was also asked to examine performance information that the USPS collects about timely mail delivery and to look at the progress made by the agency to improve public disclosure of delivery performance information. Click here to download the report.

The report found that delivery standards are out of date. According to the report, these standards are “unsuitable as benchmarks for setting realistic expectations for timely mail delivery, measuring delivery performance, or improving service, oversight and accountability."

The GAO recommended that USPS take actions to modernize its delivery standards, implement heightened delivery performance measures for major categories of mail and improve public accessibility of delivery performance standards, measures and results.

In its comments in response to a draft of the report, USPS disagreed that its standards are outdated and detailed its plans to improve service measures and public disclosure of delivery data.

The report criticized the USPS because it does not measure and disclose delivery performance for most common categories of mail. Publicly accessible measures account for only about one-fifth of mail volume and do not include standard mail, bulk first-class mail, periodicals and most package services. Although USPS has made recent limited disclosures about delivery performance, these disclosures do not include even all categories of mail about which the USPS has agreed to provide performance data.

"Without sufficient transparency, it is difficult for USPS and its customers to identify and address delivery problems, and for Congress, the Postal Rate Commission and others to hold management accountable for results and conduct independent oversight," the report said.

Other problems

The report noted other problems with the agency's charting of performance standards:

  • Lack of continued management commitment and follow through on recommendations made by joint USPS-mailer committees.
  • Technology limitations.
  • Data quality problems.
  • Limited mailer participation in providing needed performance data.

The report charged that the USPS "has no current plans to implement and report on additional representative measures of delivery performance. USPS's leadership and effective collaboration with mailers is critical to implementing a complete set of delivery performance measures."

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