The independent watchdog of the U.S. Postal Service has issued a report criticizing service reductions implemented in June and July under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, asserting that there was no consideration of the effects the cutbacks would have before they were put in place.
“No analysis of the service impacts of these various changes was conducted and documentation and guidance to the field for these strategies was very limited and almost exclusively oral,” the report, dated Monday, says. “The resulting confusion and inconsistency in operations at postal facilities compounded the significant negative service impacts across the country.”
The inspector general’s report said that the operational changes implemented by DeJoy soon after he landed the top postal job in June may have met legal requirements, but the execution was flawed and definitively resulted in delays to mail delivery.
The report examines the elimination of late and extra trips between mail processing plants and post offices, a reorganization of field operations and headquarters and a pilot program at nearly 400 facilities aimed at reducing overtime pay. These were compounded, according to the report, by more than 50 other cost-cutting initiatives that also went into effect.
“These initiatives undertaken individually may not have been significant,” the IG report states. “However, launching all of these efforts at once, in addition to the changes instituted by the postmaster general, had a significant impact on the Postal Service.”
Officials at USPS estimated the work hours that would be saved by the array of changes, but the IG found that the agency did not complete an analysis or any study on the impact the changes would have on mail service. The IG report stressed that the agency was already undergoing “critical employee availability issues” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IG report follows a barrage of criticism over the summer about policies enacted under DeJoy and the potential impact on next month’s election. With COVID-19 cases still on a steady rise, a record number of voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail and there are concerns that the changes to postal operations would hamper the delivery of absentee ballots.
The changes put in place by DeJoy resulted in a decline of on-time performance of priority and first class mail, according to the IG report.
The postmaster general has defended the service reductions, arguing that they are a necessary tool to get the Postal Service’s finances under control. But in response to widespread criticism, he suspended many of the changes until after the election.
DeJoy and the chairman of the Postal Board of Governors faced questions about the operational changes in multiple hearings in August and lawmakers sent letters and emails asking for information from the agency. The report states that while the information provided to Congress was “generally accurate,” the responses to Congress and the public on the extent and impacts of the changes were “incomplete.”
Unsatisfied with the incomplete responses, the House Oversight and Reform Committee issued a subpoena on Sept. 2 to DeJoy for documents related to the delays.
“The Committee is currently negotiating with the Postal Service over production of additional documents and the investigation is ongoing,” according to a release from the panel.
Also ongoing is an IG review of DeJoy’s adherence to financial and ethics rules, because the IG has been unable to view all of his accounts. But the report says that to date, the mega-donor for President Donald Trump has met the ethics requirements for divestments, financial disclosures and recusal.
DeJoy told senators in August that he is considering “dramatic changes” to the Postal Service after the election aimed at getting the public mail service on more solid financial footing. He touched on a range of changes, including price hikes for standard mail service and cuts to expensive service in remote parts of the country.