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GAO: U.S. Postal Service Needs Better Data To Improve Maintenance, Facilities
Continued financial challenges and increased competition are prompting the U.S. Postal Service to manage its 34,000 facilities more efficiently and cost-effectively. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified key facility management challenges, including the need to capture and maintain accurate facility data, to adequately maintain facilities, and to align retail access with customer needs.
A new GAO report assesses Postal Service efforts to overcome these challenges and implement leading federal practices, and it found that challenges remain.
To conduct the study, GAO analyzed postal data and documents, visited 58 facilities and interviewed postal officials.
To address the challenge of capturing and maintaining accurate facility management data, the Postal Service developed a facility database. But the database does not conform to the Postal Service's goals or to leading federal practices, says the GAO report. Specifically, it does not include data needed to measure performance on managing facilities, nor does it have the capacity to track such data over time. Further, a database analysis by GAO revealed data-reliability problems, including duplicate and contradictory data.
Major Postal Service departments also do not use the database as a consolidated data source for managing postal facilities. The Postal Service has attempted to improve the database, but many problems remain.
To address the challenge of maintaining its facilities, the Postal Service has begun assessing the condition of the facilities but has neither determined the extent of its maintenance projects nor strategically prioritized the projects.
A Postal Service inspection of 651 randomly selected postal facilities revealed that two-thirds were in less than "acceptable" condition. But the Postal Service had not documented the full extent of its maintenance projects backlog. After the inspection, the Postal Service initiated a program to assess the condition of all of its facilities — a necessary first step to improving their condition, according to the GAO.
The Postal Service also lacks the data needed to implement leading federal practices, such as considering a facility's importance and value when prioritizing its maintenance projects, according to the report. Due to funding constraints, the Postal Service focuses exclusively on emergency and urgent repairs at the expense of a less costly, preventive maintenance approach.