USPS inspector general criticizes steps affecting delivery; postal worker reportedly recants election fraud allegations
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
The United States Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General has given a thumbs down to a series of controversial steps that the USPS made as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took office this summer, saying that the actions “resulted in a significant drop in the quality and timeliness of mail delivery.”
In a report released Nov. 6, the Postal Service’s internal watchdog faulted postal management for the poor way it communicated the planned changes to workers and to Congress.
It said the changes were undertaken without serious study about what impact they could have on postal operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and the approaching presidential elections. The report did not flatly say that DeJoy personally authorized all the changes but said the issues were discussed with the former North Carolina logistics executive in one of his first briefings before taking office June 15.
Democratic members of the House of Representatives have been furious with DeJoy over some of the changes, such as an effort to reduce extra trips from mail-processing plants.
The Democrats attacked DeJoy, a major donor to President Donald Trump, charging he was trying to make voting by mail difficult in the Nov. 3 elections. Trump has remained an outspoken critic of voting by mail, which he has said is ripe with fraud.
Titled “Deployment of Operational Changes,” the new inspector general report criticized postal management for not being completely frank with members of Congress or fully answering their questions about disruptions to mail service.
During an Aug. 24 appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, DeJoy said he did not personally approve all the changes and that he ordered a stop to them before the elections.
According to the inspector general’s report, there were 57 initiatives implemented as DeJoy took office. They were supposed to help the USPS meet its financial goals for the fiscal year and to cut work hours.
Called the “Do It Now FY [Fiscal Year] Strategies,” the initiatives called for a wide range of changes to mail processing, vehicle maintenance and post office counter operations, the report said.
Eliminating overtime in city mail deliveries was one of the goals, but the goals were not well communicated to workers, the report said.
Workers had to rely on oral presentations rather than a clear, written explanation for the changes, the report said.
Some of the inspector general’s findings were included in an Oct. 19 report to the Postal Service’s board of governors, according to the report.
The report also said that mail delivery scores dropped sharply after the changes began, but noted that the scores had begun to rebound.
“Most notably, service performance indicators declined significantly in July 2020, for all mail products we reviewed,” the report said.
The report continued: “First-Class Single Piece declined from 90.1 [on time deliveries] to 79.7 (10.4 percentage points).
“First-Class Presort declined from 92.2 to 82.9 (9.3 percentage points). ...
“Delayed mail reported in Postal Service systems for mail processing facilities increased 21 percent, from 2 billion pieces for the week ending July 10, 2020 to 2.4 billion pieces for the week ending July 31, 2020.
“Delayed mail, which is self-reported at post offices, increased 143 percent, from 4.7 million for the week ending July 10, 2020, to 11.4 million for the week ending July 31, 2020.”
By September, mail deliveries had improved but remained below expected levels, the report said.
“First-Class Single Piece improved from 79.7 to 86.8 (7.1 percentage points) but was still below the target of 96,” the report said. “First-Class Presort improved from 82.9 to 88.6 (5.7 percentage points) but was still below the target of 96.”
The inspector general report was delivered to the postmaster general, which is rare because most reports on operational problems go directly to the USPS vice president in charge of a particular area under review.
The report concluded with four recommendations for DeJoy:
1. “Conduct a service impact analysis to identify risks and mitigating strategies considering the effects of the pandemic and expected volumes during the upcoming election and peak season, prior to implementing further cost-cutting strategies.”
2. “Suspend ongoing and additional cost-reduction efforts until after the election and holiday mailing season and after an analysis of service impacts has been completed.”
3. “Develop and implement a strategy to communicate in writing to all employees the status of ongoing and suspended operational changes to promote message clarity, alignment, and saturation.”
4. “Develop and implement a communication strategy to inform Congress and customers of planned and ongoing operational changes that may impact mail service.”
A response letter signed by several of the Postal Service’s top executives took issue with the report, saying it was “overbroad” in its conclusions.
Report: allegations recanted
A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims of tampering with mail-in ballots have been cited by a senior Republican senator has recanted those allegations, according to the Washington Post and Democrats on the House of Representative’s Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The Post reported Nov. 11 that Richard Hopkins had given postal inspectors a statement recanting his claims that a postmaster in Erie, Pa., had directed workers to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day, Nov. 3.
Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform posted a tweet Nov. 10 saying that the “whistleblower completely recanted.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had cited Hopkins’ initial claim in a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation.
The Post said three unnamed sources had verified Hopkins’ recantation, but the Post also said Hopkins stated on YouTube that he had not recanted.
Hopkins’ initial claim seemed to support President Trump’s claim that voting by mail was beset by fraud.
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