Mail collection boxes, introduced in 1858, are used primarily to collect mail from customers. Nationwide, there were about 153,000 collection boxes at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2016; however, the U.S. Postal Service has been removing underused boxes, with about 14,000 boxes removed over the past five years. Postal Service policy requires approval by the Area and public notification in order to permanently remove a collection box.
Each district is required to enter all collection boxes in the Collection Point Management System (CPMS), a database that includes the details of collection points such as the addresses, location types (e.g., Business, Residential, Post Office Lobby), and the days and times the collection point is accessed.
The CPMS is a major source of information for management review and analysis of trends affecting collection boxes. If a collection box is temporarily unable to be collected from, a local request is made to the CPMS district administrator for the box to be placed into an out-of-service status in the system. The Postal Service allows collection boxes to be placed in an out-of-service status temporarily if they are damaged and awaiting repair, removed for a parade, or cannot be collected due to unusual circumstances. While there is no policy governing the use of the out-of-service status, according to Postal Service Headquarters, collection boxes placed in out-of-service status should be for a temporary time period.
Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s processes for managing out-of-service mail collection boxes in the Great Lakes, Northeast, Pacific, Southern, and Western Areas. We reviewed out-of-service collection boxes in previous audit projects for the Eastern and Capital Metro areas. As of March 31, 2017, 3,221 collection boxes were in an out-of-service status greater than seven days for the five Postal Service areas. These collection boxes were in this status from as low as an average of 223 days to a high of 817 days.
What the OIG Found
The Postal Service did not always effectively manage out-of-service mail collection boxes. Our analysis of 205 statistically sampled boxes showed that 113 (55 percent) were permanently removed from the street without area approval and 102 of those (50 percent) were removed without public notification. Also, 515 employees in the five areas of operations had CPMS district level administrative privileges, which allowed them to place a box in an out-of-service status. Postal Service area management stated that generally one to three staff with this access level are sufficient to perform necessary duties. Area management indicated, of the 515 employees with administrative privileges, only 320 should continue to have access.
Additionally, while there is no policy on reporting out-of-service status, CPMS users have the ability to see reports on out-of-service boxes. However, they do not have the ability to see the date boxes were placed out-of-service or the duration they were in that status in order to monitor how long they have been out-of-service.
These conditions occurred because the Postal Service did not have policies or procedures to clearly define the purpose, appropriate use, duration, approval requirements, and need for notification to the public for out-of-service boxes. Also, managers did not perform system access privileges reviews to determine if CPMS access rights were current or appropriate. Additionally, the CPMS did not have business intelligence reports for management to more effectively, monitor, track, and manage out-of-service mail collection boxes, where appropriate.
Without clearly defined policy and procedures, the management of out-of-service boxes will not be consistently applied which may negatively impact management decisions and service to the public.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management establish national policies or procedures for out-of-service collection boxes to ensure consistent use, duration, and approval levels. We also recommended management communicate to managers the importance of periodic reviews of employee access levels to CPMS, and modify the system to add adequate reporting, tracking tools, and system controls.