USPS OIG: Facility Conditions, Delayed Mail, and Staffing Levels in Albuquerque, NM
The OIG received two congressional requests. One request came from former U.S. House of Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham and another from Senator Tom Udall on September 5 and September 19, 2018, respectively. Their requests asked the OIG to assess allegations of unsafe facility conditions, delayed and unprocessed mail, and understaffing at post office (PO) facilities in Albuquerque, NM. The objectives of this audit were to determine whether the Postal Service complied with applicable building maintenance, safety, and security standards; and assess mail distribution to carriers and PO Box sections and staffing levels at facilities in Albuquerque, NM.
The scope of our audit included 13 facilities in Albuquerque, NM — the eight POs named in the congressional requests and five POs we judgmentally selected based on proximity to the facilities included in the allegations.
What the OIG Found
Postal Service facilities in Albuquerque did not consistently meet prescribed building maintenance, safety, and security standards. Although Postal Service management implemented some corrective actions based on issues stemming from the allegations, we identified deficiencies at all 13 facilities during the audit. These deficiencies ranged from minor oversight infractions to more serious structural issues. Examples of deficiencies observed include:
Six POs (46 percent) had excessively stained ceiling tiles resulting from water leaks, including repeatedly roof leaks at the Five Points Station.
Six POs (46 percent) did not maintain their facilities consistent with appropriate sanitary conditions. For example, we observed excessive dust on retail lobby floors, wall fixtures, and vents; dirty customer counter tops; and restrooms not cleaned to standards.
The Albuquerque Main Post Office had visible structural cracks in its walls and floors. Based on an October 2017 work order, the Postal Service hired a structural engineering contractor to assess the cracks. The subsequent contractor report concluded that most of the cracks assessed had stabilized, were no longer moving, and recommended continued monitoring for a one-to-two-year period. The Postal Service is searching for a local structural engineer to monitor crack movements and perform crack gauge work as of the issuance of this report.
We did not identify instances of reported or observed delayed mail at the 13 POs; however, Albuquerque POs did not consistently meet prescribed scan requirements for distributing mail to carriers and PO Box sections by their designated times.
Regarding staffing levels at Albuquerque PO facilities, from FYs 2016 to 2018 there was a slight decrease in authorized positions in the maintenance function, while the customer service function gained 10 authorized positions. The adjustment in authorized positions can be attributed to the use of staffing models to periodically calculate and adjust authorized levels based on, among other factors, actual mail volume and target productivity. As of September 30, 2018, there were two (13 percent of authorized) maintenance and 13 (9 percent of authorized) customer service vacancies. Our work indicated that changes to authorized staffing levels were generally not the cause of the poor facility maintenance and upkeep. Thus, filling vacant positions to meet the authorized complement should be the goal.
Deficiencies related to building maintenance, safety, and security occurred due to the lack of management oversight. Issues with meeting scanning requirements occurred because unit supervisors were not properly trained on entering scan data and reporting the reasons the scans were late, or mail was delayed as required. Lastly, the reduction in maintenance and customer service staff on board in Albuquerque was due to attritions.
When corrective actions related to building maintenance, safety, and security issues are not implemented, or are implemented but inadequate, issues may continue to exist, increasing the Postal Service’s potential exposure to Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines and the risk of injury to employees and customers. In addition, when daily mail conditions are not reported correctly, management will not have accurate and timely information to make informed decisions for operations.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management address roof issues at the Five Points Station and structural crack issues at the Albuquerque MPO; develop and implement an action plan to address building maintenance, safety, and security issues identified during our audit; instruct customer service operations management to monitor, report, and record all instances of delayed mail daily in the Customer Service Daily Reporting System; and hire additional maintenance and customer service function staff up to the authorized staffing levels based on staffing models at appropriate locations.