How much does Postal Service waste cost American taxpayers?
The U.S. Postal Service is losing billions of dollars every year and shuttering offices across the country while ending Saturday delivery. So you'd think the semi-independent government agency would be a little more careful about how it spends your money and how closely it monitors Postal Service waste.
But you'd be wrong.
The Office of Inspector General analyzed travel spending among Postal Service workers in 2009 and 2010, and what it discovered wasn't pretty.
The scathing report detailed widespread Postal Service waste, fraud and abusive credit-card use, including one instance of an employee who used a government-issued travel card more than 50 times at adult entertainment establishments.
"Postal Service employees did not comply with prescribed travel policies resulting in over $600,000 in excessive travel costs for lodging and airfare," the OIG reported in February 2011.
The potential for Postal Service waste is staggering, according to the OIG: The agency had failed to cancel 2,491 credit cards issued to former employees, including 53 employees listed as deceased in employee records.
At the time of the OIG audit, there was more than $37 million in open credit associated with cards of former employees.
Postal Service Overspent on Lodging
Postal Service employees overspent on lodging in one out of every seven cases analyzed by the OIG. From October 2008 through September 2010, the Postal Service could have saved more than $600,000 if employees adhered to prescribed government lodging rates.
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Of the 155,104 lodging transactions that came under review, 21,691 exceeded the government lodging rate, according to the OIG. Postal Service policy requires travelers to obtain the government rate for official lodging.
"While the Postal Service is in the process of clarifying this requirement in their policy, our audit found that employees were frequently unaware of the established government rate when they obtained lodging and did not verify whether the rate they secured exceeded the government rate," the OIG reported.
One Postal Service employee claimed 326 lodging nights for reimbursement over a 20-month period that, in total, exceeded the prescribed government lodging rates by $17,877, according to the OIG.
Postal Service Misused Travel Credit Cards
The OIG audit found that more than half of the 274 employees whose credit-card transactions it reviewed misused the cards by buying personal items and taking cash advances unrelated to official travel.
"While travel coordinators reviewed cardholder statements when delinquencies were identified, they did not routinely review for misuse if there was no associated delinquency," the OIG found.
The government watchdog more than $349,317 in inappropriate purchases and cash advances from October 2008 through September 2010.
Among the most egregious examples of Postal Service waste were:
- Three employees who used his Postal Service credit card to purchase airfare tickets, including tickets to Spain and Italy, for family and friends;
- One employee who used his Postal Service credit card to buy an Apple computer and pay his mortgage;
- And one employee who used his Postal Service travel card more than 50 times at adult entertainment establishments.
Remember that the next time the Postal Service wants to raise the price of a stamp.