GAO Asserts that USPS On-Time Delivery Info Is Incomplete

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The government watchdog agency says metrics for all 67 districts are uneven; the Postal Service disagrees.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report yesterday charging that the Postal Service's on-time delivery reporting methods did not present an accurate view of service across all 67 Postal Districts. Only 55% of market-dominant mail is being tracked, according to the GAO.

The report shines a spotlight on the issue of declining service standards in rural areas of the nation. “There is no question that mail delivery and service in rural areas like North Dakota are seriously lacking,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp (above), who has introduced a bill that would hold USPS to its universal service obligation to rural areas. “As we learned from this new GAO report, how can the Postal Service possibly improve delivery in rural communities if it doesn't accurately track the time it takes to deliver mail to these areas? There is no reason why we shouldn't have access to that data.”

Though the Postal Service's tracking of mail delivery has improved greatly since the passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act in 2006 (see charts below), mail in remote areas often lack barcodes that enable close measurement. The GAO report further claims that the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has not fully assessed why USPS's data is incomplete nor issued an order to the Postal Service to address the problem.

In a statement, the Postal Service took issue with the GAO's assessment.

"The Postal Service strongly disagrees with the conclusion that our current service performance measurement is not accurate. We use the expertise of a highly reputable firm with long-standing proficiency in the design and execution of measurement systems that yield results that are statistically valid and reliable," read the statement from USPS's communications department."The Postal Service is strongly committed to transparency and the regular publication of our service performance results, including those in rural areas through a rural service measurement initiative.  We continue to work with the Congress and our regulator to develop enhanced methods for evaluating delivery performance that are already robust and accurate."

The GAO charges that the Postal Service posts only the most recent quarterly report on its website, making it difficult for stakeholders to access trend data. At issue, says the GAO, is whether or not USPS is failing in its statutory obligation to provide adequate service to the U.S. in its entirety.

The GAO recommends that the PRC hold a public meeting of all postal stakeholders on the issue and that Postmaster General Megan Brennan make available all delivery performance data, including trend analyses for all 67 postal districts.

This article was updated on 10/7/15.

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