Audit Finds Flaws, Undelivered Mail at Postal Service's New Processing Facility in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- An audit conducted by the Postal Service's inspector general found significant problems at a new regional processing facility in Virginia, including water-damaged mail left unprocessed for months and a worker asleep at a forklift.

The audit, dated March 28, raises questions about the Postal Service's plans to modernize its processing network -- the Richmond facility that was the focus of the audit is the first of a planned 60 regional processing centers that USPS is launching nationwide that are supposed to streamline operations and improve efficiency.

But the audit found that problems at the Richmond center, which opened in July, have contributed to a drop in on-time service that now finds Virginia ranked worst in the nation. The inspector general said only 66% of first-class mail has been delivered within two days in the current fiscal year, compared to a national average of 87%. No other region in the U.S. fell below 80%, according to the inspector general's office.

The Postal Service has estimated that the $23 million facility will produce $15 million annually in savings by consolidating operations. But the audit found that work hours and overtime actually increased after the center opened.

"At this time, it is unclear if the Postal Service will realize the expected savings associated with consolidating operations into the Richmond" regional processing center, the audit concluded.

Auditors also said they discovered "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." They also observed a mail handler sleeping on a parked forklift.

Postal Service officials responded to the audit and said they agree with most of the 10 specific recommendations for improvement made in the report by the inspector general.

"We have undertaken extensive efforts to thoroughly address these challenges and issues in Richmond, which has led to continued performance improvement," the officials said in their formal response to the audit.

Virginia's two U.S. senators, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, issued a joint statement along with U.S. Reps. Jennifer McClellan, D-Va., Bobby Scott, D=Va., Rob Wittman, R-Va., Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., Bob Good, R-Va., and Jen Kiggans, R-Va., calling on USPS to fix the problems identified in the report.

"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)," the lawmakers said. "USPS must provide more resources and clearer guidance to management and staff at RPDC, among other steps."