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Continual errors make some USPS information unreliable, finds IG

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Information the Postal Service collects to develop new rates, estimate stamp use and help prepare its budget is unreliable because of continued noncompliance with prescribed policies and procedures, says the service's inspector general.

In a report (.pdf) published Feb. 19, auditors found that Postal Service data collection technicians during fiscal 2012 incorrectly entered and improperly verified data, used inappropriate test mail samplings, incorrectly labeled mail they were testing and did not properly capture test mail. It says these errors were also found by auditors who researched the the fiscal 2011, 2010 and 2009 reports.

Auditors say multiple errors were found in 13 of the 45 tests it observed, in seven of 10 districts reviewed.

For fiscal 2012, auditors also found data collectors in two districts that did not lock or shutdown laptops that were unintended, despite handbook policy saying they must take security precautions to preserve test data, says the report.

The report says that, in most instances, data collectors said errors were due to an oversight such as forgetting to mark test mail, incorrectly entering information and misplacing or forgetting about set aside test mail.

The report says that these errors contributed to the Postal Service "determining that a significant internal control deficiency existed related to data collection sampling procedures as of September 30, 2012."

Auditors recommend that the program compliance managers establish quarterly training on sampling methodology practices, proper use of labels during tests and the need to protect equipment to preserve data integrity. Data collectors in districts where errors were found should also receive remediated individual training, suggests the report.

Postal Service management agreed with the recommendations and has prepared training modules and tests to address the issues raised. It also said it plans to review all data collectors identified by OIG reports and provide training in the case of missteps.

In the report, OIG says management's comments are "responsive to the recommendations and corrective actions should resolve the issues identified in the report."

For more:
- download the OIG report (.pdf)

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