Postal Updates

USPS inspector general’s report hides identities of poorly performing postal facilities

Oct 7, 2022, 12 PM

Washington Postal Scene by Bill

It sounded like the type of report that would help explain what’s sometimes wrong with the nation’s mail service.

But the Aug. 8 audit by the United States Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General was a dud.

Instead of telling the public where postal service was poor, the report blacked out the names of all the poorly performing facilities.

When Linn’s Stamp News asked why the names of all the studied facilities were deleted, the inspector general’s media relations office said to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

Linn’s filed a Freedom of Information Act request, citing the public’s need to know how good — or poor — their mail service was.

Tanya Hefley, a freedom of information officer for the Office of Inspector General, said a Freedom of Information Act request “provides only for disclosing federal agency records and does not require government agencies to create records or to answer questions.”

What Hefley provided to Linn’s was a copy of the audit titled “Improving Service Performance and Mail Processing Efficiencies at Historically Low Performance Facilities” without facility names redacted.

Here’s how the inspector general initially ranked the poorly performing mail processing centers:

1. Chicago

2. New York City (Morgan)

3. Baltimore

4. Brooklyn, N.Y.

5. Linthicum, Md.

6. Denver

7. Pontiac, Mich.

8. Bedford Park, Ill.

10. White Plains, N.Y.

11. Richmond, Va.

New Orleans was ranked No. 9 but was removed from the study because of Hurricane Ida’s impact. Richmond replaced New Orleans.

Big cities like Chicago, New York and Baltimore have long been recognized as among the most difficult cities for mail.

The report made clear that these 10 facilities were picked for the audit because they had been rated as low performers between Oct. 1, 2019, and Dec. 21, 2021.

“While service performance at the 10 facilities significantly improved in fiscal 2022, quarter 1 compared to the same period last year, each facility was generally less efficient in processing the mail compared to over 300 other locations nationwide,” the report said.

Here’s how the plants were ranked in the first quarter for fiscal year 2022 (Oct. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021):

Chicago 9

New York City (Morgan) 8

Baltimore 23

Brooklyn 40

Linthicum, Md. 46

Denver 6

Pontiac, Mich. 28

Bedford Park, Ill. 10

White Plains, N.Y. 43

Richmond, Va. 11

As for causes, the report blamed “inherent facility conditions” such as multi-floor processing, poor layouts and overcrowding.

There were also problems staffing these 10 centers by workers and management as well as a lack of formal training and worker turnover.

The mail processing machines at the 10 facilities also had more jams and handled fewer mail pieces per hour than the national average, the report said.

“Management’s main strategy was to increase the number of mail processing employees by 30,000 to help improve service performance, reduce overtime and improve employee work schedules,” it said.

That was the same strategy previous postmasters general, notably Marvin T. Runyon, used in the past when confronted with mail delivery problems.

The audit said: “The Postal Service plans to update its processing complement, modeling procedures to ensure optimal employee allocation align its workforce with its operating plans, reduce overtime demands on employees, achieve predictability and precision and improve employee engagement and retention.”

In a response to the report, Issac Cronkhite, chief postal processing and distribution officer for the Postal Service, objected to the findings about causes of low service performance, saying the report offered “little or no evidence of causal correlation.”

Cronkhite also objected to the “purported ‘lack of training’ ” of some workers, saying the Postal Service trains its workers on a “need-to-know basis.”

Whatever Cronkhite and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy do in response to the report, it seems clear that the layouts of the actual buildings matter a great deal.

That means resolving mail problems in big cities won’t be a quick or inexpensive task.

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