December 21, 2021

Van Hollen, Ruppersberger, Mfume, Cardin Announce New USPS Audit Showing Chronic Mismanagement, Employee Vacancies at USPS Processing and Distribution Facility in Baltimore

Today, Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Kweisi Mfume (all D-Md.) announced a new USPS audit showing the primary Baltimore area United States Postal Service (USPS) processing and distribution center is processing millions fewer mail items despite significant increases in work hours and overtime. The audit was self-initiated by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for USPS and comes after Office separate reviews requested by Congressmen Mfume and Ruppersberger earlier this year in response to long-standing and severe complaints from constituents about mail delays, missing mail and other customer service issues. Senator Van Hollen has been leading the charge  to restore timely mail service as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government – which oversees and funds the USPS OIG – and chaired a hearing on these issues in July with the Inspector General.

Auditors reviewed the USPS Baltimore Processing and Distribution Center, located on Fayette Street downtown, from August 2020 to July 2021, and found that workers processed about 1.67 billion pieces of mail compared to about 1.74 billion pieces of mail during the same review period last year — a decrease of about 70 million pieces of mail. Yet, during that same period, workhours and overtime at the facility increased by 14.6 and 43.5 percent, respectively.

Employee availability averaged only 65 percent – far below the USPS goal of 95 percent for the year.

“This audit confirms what we’ve been hearing for months from constituents and saw on paper in the OIG’s previous audit released last month,” the lawmakers said. “Chronic mismanagement, persistent vacancies and inoperable equipment are contributing to unacceptable mail service that is causing our constituents frustration and even financial hardship. We thank the Inspector General and her team for yet another thorough review and will keep pushing to ensure their recommendations are implemented as soon as possible.”

Among the audit’s key findings:

  • The lack of managers and supervisors – exacerbated by a hiring freeze imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from August 2020 to May 2021 – resulted in inadequate oversight of operations and employees at the processing and distribution center, contributing to a decrease in productivity.
  • A “tray management system” used to transport letter trays within the facility has been inoperable since March 2019 and was deemed irreparable. Without the tray management system, employees must load mail in containers and manually transfer it from floor to floor using elevators, adding two hours per day to each operation, resulting in more late and extra trips.
  • Mail was brought to the outbound docks after scheduled truck departures. From October 1, 2020, to July 31, 2021, about 36 percent of trips dispatched from the facility were either late or extra trips.
  • Loads were not properly scanned before dispatching mail to the next facility. On average, only 58.9 percent of load scans and 76.3 percent of depart scans were completed from October 2020 to July 2021, although there has been significant improvement in scanning rates since then.

The new audit contains five specific recommendations with target implementation dates at the end of January. Local USPS management concurred with the findings but disagreed with the recommendation to replace the tray management system which, per the report, led to delayed mail and delivery issues and was out of commission more than two years before the USPS-wide “modernization plan” cited by local leadership was announced.

The previous audit, released in November, surveyed the Carroll Station, Clifton East End Station, Dundalk, Druid Station, Essex, Loch Raven, Middle River, Parkville and Rosedale post offices. That audit found that the region has the second highest number of missing mail inquiries in the country, with more than three times the national average, among many other issues. It contained seven specific recommendations for improvement with target implementation deadlines in November.