GAO: USPS Lags in Internet Ventures

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The U.S. Postal Service has made little progress in offering services over the Internet, according to a report released by the General Accounting Office.

Efforts to allow customers to pay bills online, send certified mail and offer computerized postage stamps have suffered from disorganization and incomplete accounting, the congressional agency found.

"Financial information related to its e-commerce and Internet-related activities is not complete, accurate and consistent," the report said. "Overall, the management of USPS' e-commerce program has been fragmented, and implementing of e-commerce initiatives has been inconsistent across the various business units involved in these activities."

The GAO, which analyzed postal service e-commerce activity from January through October 2001, also reported that the postal service's online privacy policies "exceed those required by federal law."

Recent efforts by postmaster general John Potter should improve the postal service's online efforts, the report said. Most notably, Potter announced a sweeping management restructuring in September that changed the reporting structure and managers responsible for the e-commerce programs.

If these steps do not prove effective, the report said, Congress might consider requiring the USPS to have an annual review by the Postal Rate Commission on the performance of its new products and services and having the PRC report to Congress on the results of that review.

The GAO report was requested by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, the ranking minority member on the subcommittee on international security, proliferation and federal affairs, which oversees the postal service.


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