USPS Audit Reveals DEEP Troubles At Processing Center In THIS State

By Tommy Wilson | Saturday, 06 April 2024 08:30 AM
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A recent audit conducted by the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) inspector general has revealed significant issues at a mail processing facility in Richmond, Virginia.

This audit corroborates previous reports of persistent delivery problems, according to the Associated Press.

The audit report, titled "Effectiveness of the New Regional Processing and Distribution Center in Richmond, VA," was published in March, only a month after Keith Balmer, the general registrar for the City of Richmond, cautioned voters against mailing their ballots.

During a town hall event in February, Balmer expressed his concern about the reports of delayed, misplaced, or missing mail. He said, “The reports we’ve been receiving about delayed, misplaced, or even missing mail are deeply troubling, especially as we approach crucial electoral events like the Presidential Election in November.”

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Balmer urged voters to explore alternative methods of submission, acknowledging that the mail delivery failures pose a fundamental threat to our democracy. He recommended bypassing USPS and using one of the three drop boxes located in the city for ballot submission.

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Residents of the Richmond area have been raising concerns about the USPS’ mail issues for several months. The inspector general stated that the recent audit aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the USPS’ modernized network based around Regional Processing and Distribution Centers.

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The audit report stated, “The U.S. Postal Service is redesigning its processing network with the goal of creating a best-in-class mail and package processing network as part of its 10-year strategic Delivering for America plan.” The Richmond Processing and Distribution Center became the first RP&DC in July 2023, consolidating operations from nearby facilities.

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However, the audit revealed that the Richmond facility faced numerous challenges that led the USPS to incur additional labor and transportation costs, totaling over $8 million in questioned costs over the first four months of operations. The inspector general report acknowledged a significant decrease in service performance for the Richmond region that continued four months after launch.

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The audit identified issues at the facility, including inadequate management and employee staffing, low employee availability, high turnover, low service performance, missed clearance times, overcrowding, and low productivity. Over a four-month period, the facility had three different plant managers, a role crucial for managing and overseeing the timely processing and dispatch of mail, improving operations, and correcting problems to achieve goals.

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The inspector general’s investigation found that workers newly placed in leadership positions generally had not completed required training. The audit also observed multiple instances of personnel throughout the facility not engaged with work, including idle terminal handling service staff waiting for mail and a mail handler sleeping on a parked forklift. The audit noted a general inattention to detail that resulted in mail left on or around machines, large amounts of machinable mail in manual processing, and in one case, mail over two months old left in a container in the truck yard.

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The USPS plans to launch 60 regional processing centers nationwide to streamline mail delivery. However, the audit acknowledged that it is uncertain if expected savings will be achieved at the Richmond facility, the first RPDC. The new plant was estimated to save $15 million annually. Instead, the facility spent $5 million on non-approved and penalty overtime hours.

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According to the inspector general, so far in fiscal year 2024, only 66% of first-class mail processed at the Richmond facility was delivered within two days, while the national average is 87%. Every other facility in the country is ranked 80% or higher.

In response to the audit, the USPS released a statement agreeing with most of the inspector general’s 10 recommendations for improvement. USPS officials said, “We have undertaken extensive efforts to thoroughly address these challenges and issues in Richmond, which has led to continued performance improvement.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote, “Following concerning mail delays, we pushed for an investigation into the Richmond Post Office, and I’m glad to see it reveal some of the causes of delay. It’s time for USPS to work in good faith to implement the suggestions so Virginians’ mail is safely & quickly delivered.”

Warner, along with several other Virginia lawmakers, released a bipartisan joint statement urging the USPS to implement the inspector general’s recommendations. They stated, “It couldn’t be clearer that USPS has not been providing reliable service to Virginians, and we’ve been pressing for answers. This report pinpoints a number of issues, including a lack of coordination between USPS and staff at the Richmond Regional Processing and Distribution Center (RPDC). Going forward, USPS must provide more resources and clearer guidance to management and staff at RPDC, among other steps. We look forward to working with USPS to ensure that happens, the recommendations in the IG report are implemented, and mail delivery is timely for Virginians.”

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