By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
A new report from the Government Accountability Office says not only has the United States Postal Service slowed the speed of mail deliveries, it doesn’t provide accurate data on much of the mail it handles.
That finding, in a report titled “Actions Needed to Make Delivery Performance Information More Complete, Useful, and Transparent” that was published Oct. 5, has troubled some lawmakers who represent rural areas where they say mail service is noticeably slower.
The GAO slammed the information the USPS provides about mail service, charging that “only 55 percent of market-dominant mail (primarily First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Periodicals, and Package Services) is included” in the mail numbers released by the USPS.
“The remaining 45 percent is excluded due to various limitations, such as not having barcodes to enable tracking,” the GAO said.
It said that exclusion poses a risk that on-time performance numbers are not representative of what’s happening to the nation’s mail.
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Postal officials defended their sampling methodology in a response to the GAO, saying that the agency’s fears are “unfounded.”
The GAO said it would continue to press Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission to insist on better numbers from the Postal Service.
Especially troublesome to some of the lawmakers was the Postal Service’s inability to produce numbers on mail flow to rural communities, something that the USPS has maintained would be too costly to provide.
“There is no reason why we shouldn't have access to that data,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who long has been arguing for better rural mail service.
She said in a statement that the GAO report makes clear that rural areas are being “disproportionately and unfairly impacted” by recent cuts in mail processing times.
Sen. Clare McCaskill, D-Mo., said, “Until USPS is able to accurately assess their own performance and address their ability to deliver on-time mail to rural customers, they can’t possibly consider further consolidations of processing facilities and post office closures.”
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who has introduced legislation to help ease the Postal Service’s on-going financial crisis, said his legislation would help address the issues raised by the GAO but that Congress must act.
“My bill … would help put the ‘service’ back in Postal Service by stabilizing operations and requiring measurable improvements to delivery performance across the country,” he said.
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