Senators Want Heads to Roll After Postal Service Underestimates Delayed Mail by 2 Billion Pieces

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would like to see anyone  involved in cover-up fired. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would like to see anyone involved in cover-up fired. Matthew Brown/AP

Several senators are calling for major changes at the U.S. Postal Service after a report found the agency underestimated its delayed mail by 2 billion pieces. One lawmaker went as far as to say anyone involved in the cover-up should be fired.

The delays cost the Postal Service $85 million, the USPS inspector general found in an August report. The auditors tested the accuracy of the Postal Service’s reported delays at several facilities across the county and extrapolated the findings out to come up with the 2 billion figure over the course of one year. The agency considers mail delayed when it is “not processed in time to meet the established delivery day.”

A lack of training and supervision caused the failure to accurately report delayed mail, the IG said. The dramatically imprecise measurements of delayed mail have led to management using faulty information when making decisions on staffing, equipment, maintenance and transportation.

Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who respectively chair a committee and subcommittee with postal oversight, sent a letter to Postmaster General Megan Brennan demanding the agency immediately boost its training for managers at processing and distribution centers. Doing so, they said, would help “shore up the reliability and profitability of the Postal Service.” They asked for regular updates on their progress toward that goal and for the IG to measure the effectiveness of the new training.

“The mail continues to be a vital lifeline in rural America and the dependence on this service as a way to deliver goods as well as connect individuals, communities and businesses demands that it be a reliable and accurate mode of delivery,” the senators wrote in their letter. “This cannot happen if we do not understand the full scope of a postal customer’s mail experience in real time.”

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., took his request a step farther. Noting another IG report that found supervisors manipulated mail delivery records and employees intentionally delayed mail delivery so their colleagues working subsequent shifts would appear to be busy, Tester said the Postal Service should take immediate disciplinary action.

“To be clear, 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,” Tester wrote in a letter of his own to Brennan, the postmaster general.

Mail delays that were reported spiked in 2015 after the Postal Service shuttered 141 facilities as part of consolidation plan to “right-size” its operations and workforce. USPS scuttled plans to close an an additional 82 plants amid concerns about the impact. Those delays were despite a shift in policy to slow down its promised delivery windows. The Postal Service eliminated overnight delivery of single-piece first class mail, and shifted much of its two-day service to a three-to-five day window. The IG has since found the agency realized just 10 percent of the $805 million in savings it originally projected from the change.

Previous reports have also highlighted the agency’s potential lost revenue from delayed mail. The auditors last year found the the Postal Service was likely to lose out on business during the election season due to potential customers’ lack of faith in its operational performance.

All of the senators said they wanted to work with the Postal Service to improve its performance, but said the agency must take responsibility for its own failures.

“As always, I stand ready to assist in your responsibility to bolster the Postal Service and help it meet the needs of the American people,” Tester wrote. “But that begins with your commitment to get rid of any supervisors or senior who intentionally provided inaccurate reports of delayed mail and to deploy formal training for P&DC managers.”

The Postal Service declined to comment in time for this story.

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