MAY 12, 2015
The famously mismanaged government agency suffering through an endless financial crisis blew an opportunity to save nearly $22 million had it bothered to maintain its fleet of vehicles more efficiently, according to a federal audit released this month.
It’s the last thing American taxpayers need to hear about the long struggling U.S. Postal Service (USPS), a scandal-plagued agency well known for its egregious spending sprees and dire financial woes. Just a few days ago the USPS reported that it lost an eye-popping $1.5 billion in the second quarter of fiscal 2015, despite an operating revenue increase. As shocking as this may seem, it’s actually an improvement over the same period last year, when the USPS lost $1.9 billion.
These serious blunders are par for the course at the nation’s postal agency, which simply turns to Congress—and taxpayers—for bailouts whenever it digs a hole for itself. A few years ago Judicial Watch reported that the USPS blew hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional sports tickets, booze and fancy meals while it claimed to be crippled by an $8.3 billion deficit. The items were purchased by USPS managers and employees with special charge cards issued to U.S. government agencies.
Before that the USPS was embroiled in a number of other scandals involving tax-delinquent employees and flagrant spending, which is attributed largely to the exorbitant cost of worker benefits and compensation. One year the nation’s Postmaster General received a six-figure bonus and huge salary increase while the USPS suffered through a record loss of $8.5 billion. During the same period a federal audit revealed that tax delinquency is rampant among government workers and that the agency with the most scofflaws is the USPS with tens of thousands of employees owing hundreds of millions of dollars. The USPS is also notorious for violating a law that caps Postal Service employee compensation by giving top executives exorbitant salaries and perks while the agency is billions in the hole.
Now we find out that, among the USPS’s many mishaps, is the way it handles maintenance for its fleet of vehicles. The agency owns about $3.6 billion worth of vehicles and they’re maintained at 316 facilities, a USPS Inspector General report says. The maintenance facilities service 211,264 vehicles but the USPS also contracts with commercial garages nationwide for repairs. In 2014 the agency paid an astounding $1.1 billion on vehicle maintenance expenses. That’s a chunk of change by any standards and the agency watchdog wanted to assure the taxpayer dollars are being handled efficiently.
It turns out that the USPS vehicle maintenance facilities are wasting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, according to the agency inspector general. “Vehicle maintenance facilities were not operating at peak efficiency and were not efficient when compared to established targets” the report says. “Specifically, undistributed labor, work order hours that were more than the timecard hours, was 11 percent of total maintenance labor costs and exceeded the established target of 3 percent.” Supervisory and support labor costs were also too high, the watchdog writes.
“These conditions occurred because of management’s lack of oversight in monitoring mechanic work hours as well as not reaching the work hour targets due to administrative and supervisory vacancies,” the report says. If management actually did its job the vehicle maintenance facilities would be more efficient and the USPS would save more than $21.8 million annually and hundreds of thousands of work hours, according to a specific formula laid out in the report. The document goes into tremendous detail and includes charts and illustrations as well as cost breakdowns by region.
Those who may find this egregious should know that this isn’t the first time the USPS’s wasteful vehicle maintenance system gets exposed. “The prior audit found inefficiencies, mismanaged resources, and inadequate controls,” the recent IG report says. It goes on to say that vehicle maintenance facility operations in eight of 16 districts in the Capital Metro and Pacific areas were not operating at peak efficiency. In both cases USPS management agreed with the IG’s findings though nothing has been done to fix the hemorrhaging.
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