Big problem, here: The postal service spends an undisclosed amount of money on studies it can’t find

DC-NEWS 300X71Thomas Phippen, DCNF

The U.S. Postal service spends an undisclosed amount of money each year on “external studies” that may may have little value to the organization, an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation released in October reveals.

The Postal Service commissioned 97 studies between 2009 and 2015 that were supposed to improve operations, yet the agency doesn’t have a system to track the studies, so there is no way for the OIG to determine how effective the reports were. The Postal Service could not even find 30 of the 97 studies when the OIG asked to see them.

USPS also has a unique exemption that doesn’t require them to reveal how much taxpayer money they spent on the 97 commissioned studies the OIG reviewed.

A heavily redacted graph in the OIG’s report conceals the amount of money the USPS spent on the external commissioned studies.

The OIG redacted amounts spent on commissioned studies (Image: USPS Office of the Inspector General)

The OIG redacted amounts USPS spent on commissioned studies (Image: USPS Office of the Inspector General)

Revealing the amount of money the USPS spent on the studies “could harm harm its ability to negotiate future contracts,” Agapi Doulaveris, chief of staff for the OIG told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

“By law, the Postal Service is supposed to operate more like a business, and was granted a FOIA exemption to protect commercially sensitive information,” Doulaveris said. Giving out the amount of money spent on the 97 contracts might “disclose sensitive information that would provide competitors with an advantage.”

Since USPS doesn’t have an efficient system to managing the studies it commissions, it could not even find 31 percent of the studies paid for when the OIG asked to see them.

“Over a 6-week period the Postal Service could not locate 30 of 97 requested studies,” the OIG said. The Postal Service did find 26 of the missing studies after the investigation closed, the OIG notes.

USPS pays for studies “when an external vendor can provide more insight, expertise, opinions, or recommendations on topics in different business areas,” the OIG said.  “Contracts for external reports may include reports and analyses on topics such as finance, engineering, information technology, and marketing.”

Most of the studies were commissioned by the chief marketing and sales officer, which makes sense given the decline in use of the Postal Service as businesses and individuals increasingly rely on email over traditional mail for marketing and personal communication. In the past few years, USPS has become more of a delivery service for online stores rather than being primarily a letter-carrier.

Officials at USPS agreed with the OIG’s recommendation to build a management system to track the studies they do in the future.

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