*USPS Criticized for Limo Use

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An audit report has resurfaced that says U.S. Postal Service executives improperly used chauffeurs and official vehicles more than 520 times over four years for office-to-home travel, aiding spouses and delivering cakes and packages.

The study--by the agency's inspector general--was completed last year when the USPS had $199 million in revenue losses and pursued a 1-cent postage hike that went into effect this month.

The report came to light recently when Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, said he will seek a review of postal procedures by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to prevent more abuses. He also has instructed his staff to look for places to cut waste and fraud in the federal government.

"It's ironic that Americans were hit with a 1-cent stamp increase this month and at the same time we learn that postal officials are ripping off taxpayers with limo service between their homes and offices," said Sessions, in a statement. "Top executives need to be setting a much better example."

Specifically, the report found that over 520 instances involving one field and eight headquarters executives where official vehicle and chauffeurs were improperly sued. Approximately 460 of the 520 instances were attributed to one field executive who used the vehicle from June 1996 to October 1998. The remaining instances occurred at headquarters between June 1998 and February 2000.

The audit said poor logs were kept, and that stronger controls should be implemented to minimize the risk that vehicles could be misused, and that the deputy postmaster general provide control and oversight over the use of administrative vehicles to ensure compliance with federal law and postal policy.

Only the postmaster general is allowed use of a chauffeur for office-to-home travel. Other executives may use official vehicles and drivers at certain management levels and on official business, Postal Service policy says.

In a memo to auditors, Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan said that he would: Provide control and oversight; reissue guidance emphasizing that chauffeurs are not authorized for field locations; and develop and enforce the use of daily logs.

The USPS, which was granted a smaller rate hike than it wanted from the Postal Rate Commission, projects a revenue loss this fiscal year of $480 million or more.

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