Report: Postal Service mismanaging e-commerce efforts

The Postal Service's ability to harness the power of the Internet is being hampered by mismanagement, according to the General Accounting Office. In a new report, "U.S. Postal Service: Update on E-Commerce Activities and Privacy Protections," (GAO-02-79) GAO argued that the Postal Service has not met its expectations for e-commerce programs, such as electronic bill payment and online stamp sales. The Postal Service expected to generate $104 million from e-commerce initiatives last year. According to data provided to GAO, e-commerce initiatives generated less 1 percent of that in actual revenue. "USPS continues to have difficulty defining, identifying and classifying its Internet-related initiatives, including e-commerce initiatives. Additionally, inconsistency remains in the implementation of its processes and controls for developing, approving and monitoring the performance of e-commerce initiatives," the report said. The report also criticized the Postal Service for failing to provide complete, accurate and consistent financial information on e-commerce and Internet-related activities. GAO levied similar complaints in a September 2000 report. "In our opinion, a major factor contributing to USPS' limited progress in this area has been its management approach," the report stated. "Overall, the management of USPS' e-commerce program has been fragmented, and implementation of e-commerce initiatives has been inconsistent across the various business units involved in these activities." By contrast, GAO reported that the Postal Service has taken aggressive steps to put in place a privacy program for its e-commerce initiatives. GAO did not review the actual privacy practices. "USPS has created a focused privacy program headed by a chief privacy officer and reportedly has developed privacy policies and practices for its e-commerce customers that exceed those required by federal law," GAO noted. That is no small task, given the complex web of laws USPS must comply with. The agency must contend with a slew of laws directed at both federal agencies and private-sector companies. In a written response to GAO's new recent report, Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan said the agency is taking significant steps to improve e-commerce programs. He pointed out that the Postal Service embarked on a restructuring effort last September that brought all marketing units-including e-commerce-under one division. The restructuring will increase management oversight, program discipline and financial control, Nolan said. Additionally, Nolan refuted GAO's claim that it has difficulty defining e-commerce initiatives. USPS defines e-commerce as "those products and services that require the Internet for the customer to do business with the Postal Service and whose primary objective is to generate new revenue." GAO recommended that the Postal Service develop a comprehensive set of policies to collect data on its e-commerce efforts. The report also suggested that USPS report annually on the performance of all of its new products and services.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.