JUNE 30, 2011
Crippled by an $8.3 billion deficit, the U.S. Postal Service may soon need a taxpayer bailout yet the federal agency blew hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional sports tickets, booze and fancy meals.The items were purchased by USPS managers and employees with special charge cards issued to U.S.government agencies. More than 3 million federal workers nationwide have the cards and they charge around$30 billion annually, according to the U.S. General Services Administration.Despite its monstrous financial troubles, the USPS is known to rack up big-time expenses as if it were a major corporation with lucrative profits. In fiscal year 2010 the agency charged more than $239 million on the government-issued plastic, according to federal auditors.This week the USPS Inspector General revealed that agency policy was violated in at least $400,000 worth of charges that were not properly authorized or justified. Among the items purchased were expensive season tickets to professional basketball, football and baseball games, gift cards, beer, wine and unjustified “business meals.”In its report the IG points out that it’s the third “focusing on purchases that could negatively impact the Postal Service’s public image and brand.” Two previous audits found similar wrongdoing and investigators seem to think the problem will magically get solved.A 2009 IG report determined that USPS employees were continuing to make “imprudent an unnecessary purchases during a time of severe economic uncertainty in the postal service. “ In 2008 investigators said cardholders didn’t verify charges, made purchases from unauthorized vendors and failed to follow proper procedures when making purchases.All this while the agency suffers through a dire financial crisis that’s been years in the making. The chief of the USPS recently said it’s facing at least $8 billion in losses for the second consecutive year. One U.S.congressman is calling on fellow lawmakers to “establish a mechanism to prevent the sort of poor management and fiscal irresponsibility that has beset the USPS’s transition into the digital age.”
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