Postal IG under fire for unusual 'team-building' activities

A government watchdog group and two senators have accused Postal Service Inspector General Karla Corcoran of wasting resources, and want her ousted from her position.

Corcoran "seems to have been too busy wasting her own agency's resources to have been much of a watchdog for the Postal Service," wrote Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in a May 1 letter to David Fineman, chairman of the Postal Service's Board of Governors.

The letter recounted whistleblower reports of IG employees building gingerbread houses, dressing up like 1970s-era disco group The Village People and performing stripteases during work hours. The two lawmakers also criticized the amount of waste, fraud and abuse identified by Corcoran's office during her tenure in comparison with her expenditures.

"In 2001, with an IG staff of approximately 725 employees and an IG budget of $117 million, IG Corcoran identified only $56 million of waste at the Postal Service," wrote the senators.

A day earlier, Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based interest group, forwarded a letter to Fineman asking that a new postal inspector general be appointed to replace Corcoran. According to Leslie Paige, the organization's vice president, the move was prompted by reports of "rampant waste, cronyism, questionable management and personnel practices, and substandard performance when it comes to uncovering waste, fraud and abuse."

"The [office of inspector general] cannot credibly lay claim to the recovery of huge sums of money, nor are the [office's] audits producing dramatic results in terms of productivity gains or improved practices at the Postal Service," Paige wrote. "It would be a slap in the face of postal ratepayers, who have seen large increases in the price of stamps during those years, to tolerate these rampant abuses until her term expires in January 2004."

In a written response, Corcoran, who was appointed in 1997, disputed the allegations and said she would not leave her post.

"I have no plans to resign and I stand by the performance of my [office], which has identified more than $2.2 billion in savings and cost avoidance to the U.S. Postal Service and ratepayers over the past six years," she wrote.

According to Corcoran, the IG's office spent $82 million in 2001 and uncovered more than $275 million in waste at the Postal Service. She defended the exercises described by the whistleblowers, saying they were team-building activities.

"While the team-building programs and exercises used by the Postal Service Office of the Inspector General are not typical among other federal inspector general offices, they are practiced by many Fortune 500 companies across all industries and by the U.S. Postal Service as a way to increase productivity."

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has asked the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency to investigate the postal IG's office. A spokeswoman for Grassley said he was in close communication with both the IG's office and the board, and was not calling for Corcoran's resignation.