OIG revises announcement of its S&DC audit (again), will now focus on communication

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

The USPS Office of Inspector General has made some changes in the announcement about its audit of the Postal Service’s Sorting and Delivery Centers. It’s the second time the announcement has been revised.

In December, the OIG’s website said one of the ongoing audits would focus on the Postal Service’s “Development and Communication of Sorting and Delivery Centers.” As shown on this version of the announcement from the Internet Archive, the original estimated release date was June 28, 2023. In early February, the OIG changed the announcement and pushed the release date back to July 28.

Now the OIG has revised the announcement again. The OIG’s website now says the release date is July 21. Why it’s been moved forward by a week is anyone’s guess.

The new announcement also changes the title to “Review of USPS Sorting and Delivery Centers in FY23 Q1 and Q2.” That may seem like a minor change, but it cuts off the audit’s timeframe at March 31, 2023, by which time only about 17 post offices will have seen their carriers relocated. The 37 additional post offices losing their carriers in June will not be part of the audit.

What’s most interesting about the new announcement is how it has revised the focus of the audit.

In a previous post about the first two versions, I mistakenly indicated that the second version added a phrase about evaluating “the data models used to determine sites for conversion into S&DCs.” That phrase was in fact included in the original version — but it’s not included in the newest version.

The first two versions (which were the same aside from the release date) included this sentence: “Our objective is to evaluate Postal Service’s data models used to determine sites for conversion into S&DCs, cost and savings impacts associated with the conversions, as well as how those plans were communicated to external stakeholders and internally.”

The version on the OIG website today reads as follows: “Our objective is to assess the effectiveness of communications with stakeholders and identify successes, opportunities, and lessons learned during the launch of Postal Service’s new Sorting and Delivery Centers.”

In other words, the new description has removed two key objectives — a cost-and-savings analysis of the S&DC plan and a data-based explanation of how the Postal Service chose which processing centers and post offices would be part of the rollout. Instead, the audit will apparently focus only on how the Postal Service communicated the plan to stakeholders and what lessons may be learned from the launch.

That’s hardly worth waiting for. Anyone who’s been following this story knows what kind of a job the Postal Service has done rolling out the plan.

The Postal Service has presented no data on the additional costs of longer routes (aside from what was revealed in an internal presentation not meant for the public), it has not explained how these new costs will be offset by cuts elsewhere (aside from fewer Highway Contract Route trips to take mail from processing centers to post offices), it has frustrated leaders of the unions and management associations by not providing timely answers to their questions, it has left postal employees in the dark, it has not held any public meetings, and it has not addressed most of the main issues about the plan, like how it expects to retain carriers when their commutes get a lot longer, what will happen to post office clerks who don’t have carrier operations to support, and what’s going to be done with all the post offices that end up with more than half their floor space empty and excess.

Instead, the Postmaster General has given upbeat speeches at the Postal Forum and the American Enterprise Institute that provided only a vague description of the plan. Two issues of The Eagle Magazine have included what are essentially puff pieces about how the new workplaces at S&DCs will be so much better than those decaying post offices where carriers work now — even though most of the S&DCs will be in repurposed processing centers, not one of the big bright new modern facilities being built in a few metro areas.

And let’s not forget the grand tour of postal facilities in Georgia with the Washington Post last fall, in which the Postmaster General showed off his big new facility in Palmetto and explained why charging stations for the new fleet of electric trucks could only be installed at the new S&DCs and how he couldn’t fathom putting them at small rural post offices — notwithstanding that the OIG has found that EVs save more money on longer routes, like those in rural areas, and that the charging infrastructure is being paid for not by the Postal Service but by taxpayers via $1.7 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The OIG and the Postal Regulatory Commission should both be doing a detailed analysis of the costs and savings associated with the S&DC plan. If these agencies can’t provide the public with a thorough review of one of the most significant transformations of the Postal Service in decades, who else is going to do it?

Anyway, here’s the current version of the audit announcement on the OIG website:

Recently, the Postal Service announced their intention to consolidate delivery operations at more than 200 post offices and other facilities into larger, regional hubs known as Sorting and Delivery Centers (S&DC). The purpose of S&DCs is to reduce transportation and mail handling costs, as well as provide customers with additional services. Our objective is to assess the effectiveness of communications with stakeholders and identify successes, opportunities, and lessons learned during the launch of Postal Service’s new Sorting and Delivery Centers.”

For more details and analysis about the S&DC plan, check out our dashboard here.