The objective of our audit was to determine whether contractual support services for the U.S. Postal Service’s Continuous Improvement (CI) Program were effectively supporting the program’s goals.
In 2007, the Postal Service introduced the CI Program as a management strategy to produce both immediate and sustainable, continuous process improvements. CI is an ongoing effort to improve Postal Service products, services, or processes. The Postal Service uses the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) problem-solving process as part of the CI Program.
The awarding of an LSS Green or Black Belt requires the following specific project documentation to certify completion:
- The project tollgate presentation;
- Completion of a project summary document;
- A completed and approved project charter;
- Completed project role documentation;
- Completed and signed independent benefit project validator summary; and
- Completed and signed LSS belt checklist.
The Postal Service awarded contracts to four vendors for contractual support services for the CI Program. From February 2016 to February 2018, the Office of Continuous Improvement (OCI) spent about $9 million on contractual support services. The contractors support, train, and coach belt candidates on LSS projects; develop strategic objectives; and work with teams to meet LSS project goals.
What the OIG Found
We could not determine if contractual support services were effective in supporting CI Program goals because the OCI has not developed measurable goals. The OCI Manager stated that the office has not developed measurable goals because OCI is continuously improving and learning, therefore measurable program goals were not developed. However, goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. As a result, the OCI is unable to determine the effectiveness of its contractual support services. We identified unsupported questioned costs of about $9 million from February 2016 to February 2018.
We also found that OCI management was using inaccurate information to report belt certifications. Specifically, we reviewed 127 CI projects completed from March 2016 to February 2018, and determined that 96 of them (76 percent) did not have the project documentation required to award the LSS belts. Two projects did not result in an LSS belt and the other 29 projects (23 percent) had sufficient documentation to support LSS belt awards.
This occurred due to inadequate oversight of established processes for awarding LSS belt certifications. As a result, the OCI was using unreliable information when reporting LSS belt certification numbers to its stakeholders.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommend management:
- Develop and implement specific and measurable goals for the CI Program.
- Develop and implement an oversight plan to ensure CI project documentation reviews are performed and OCI requirements are met before awarding an LSS belt certification.