Faulty refund process may cost USPS $500,000

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The Office of the inspector general's audit of the US Postal Service's refund process in the Capital Metro area (comprising Washington, Baltimore, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia) found that retail associates and customer service supervisors are not always properly processing and recording refunds of stamps, fees, retail services and Express Mail services.

As a result, the sites visited in the Capital Metro area have incurred $180,619 in unsupported, questioned costs, and $531,784 in assets at risk for refunds of stamps, fees, retail services and Express Mail services.

The inspector general audited four sites in the Capital Metro area. However, the location of the sites is not public information, according to Deborah Yackley, media relations representative at the USPS.

When asked if the audit findings could be translated to a national level, Yackley said: "I am sure this occurs everywhere on an infrequent basis."

To audit the sites, the office of the inspector general reviewed applicable policies and procedures in regard to the verification, approval and disbursement of refunds from January 2006 to July 2007. It obtained, reviewed and analyzed data from the point-of-service system, Retail Data Mart and Accounting Data Mart for the area districts under review to determine the amount of refunds processed.

The audit found that retail associates do not always complete refund documentation, enter the proper account identifier codes or provide signatures on Postal Service Forms 1412 in the Daily Financial Report.

The USPS establishes policies and procedures to process refunds. It groups all refund requests into categories and assigns accounting codes to facilitate the refund process. These accounting codes allow it to effectively track revenues by customer type and help attribute refunds to the correct postage category.

"We recommend the vice president [of] Capital Metro Operations, direct district managers to ensure customer service supervisors provide oversight of retail associates to ensure they follow established procedures for processing and recording refunds," the report said. "We recommend directing area finance and retail managers to reissue the refund policy memorandum to remind employees of procedures, and ensure customer service supervisors verify whether retail associates are properly signing their clerk PS Forms 1412."

The inspector general's office also recommended directing district managers to ensure customer service supervisors review PS Forms 1412 and supporting documentation.

USPS issued a policy memorandum, PS Form 3533, titled "Instructions and Closeout Procedures for Retail Associates," to all Capital Metro area district offices.

The USPS will add verification procedures to the Post Office Quarterly Self-Audit Checklist for customer service supervisors, managers and postmasters. It reissued its policy memo to all district managers and added the responsibility for review of PS 1412 supporting documentation at the end of the day to the Post Office Quarterly Self Checklist for customer service supervisors, managers and postmasters.

The inspector general's office said the actions should address the issues identified in the findings.

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