Monday, February 14, 2011

When is $600,000 more than $6,200,000?

When the $600,000 involves sex and "waste, fraud, and abuse" of Postal Service funds.

The $600,000 is the amount of money that the USPS - Inspector General has indicated that the Postal Service could save over the next two years if it improved training on travel expenses were introduced.   Overspending on travel and abuse of corporate credit cards is nothing new in either the private sector or public sector.   Reports similar to the one issued by the Inspector General probably have been written since at least the times of the Roman Legion.  Given that Postal Service currently spends $97 million on travel expenses annually, the impact of the Inspector General's findings suggest that better training on travel rules would reduce travel expenses by 0.32%.     Discovering that travel rules are complied with 99.68% of the time would suggest that employees are not doing all that bad of a job complying with travel spending rules and appropriate use of corporate credit cards.
The $600,000 in savings identified has received lead stories in nearly every paper covering the Postal Service and comments from both Senator Susan Collins and Senator Tom Carper.   It has generated some truly salacious headlines:

Washington Post:
Report: Postal workers expensed private travel and 'adult entertainment'

The $6.2 million is the cost of the fines that OSHA has imposed on the Postal Service.  Stories of individual fines as well as the fact that OSHA is now seeking enterprise relief has received coverage only by local newspapers and publications that cover OSHA actions.    These fines have received scant attention by either the national, Federal Government or postal press.   These fines have not generated statements from any member of Congress who are looking at changes in postal legislation.

Even though spending $6.2 million in OSHA fines is ten times more waste than the abuse of travel rules, the attention that policymakers place on it suggests that they believe that  the $6.2 million in OSHA fines are less than the $600,000 that would be saved by the Postal Service if no employee abused travel rules and corporate credit cards.  

The real reason for the failure of policymakers in elementary school arithmetic is that the travel abuse issue has an obvious fix and the OSHA fine problem only suggests that there is a more serious underlying problem that needs investigation.   Doing that investigation is critical particularly as it would likely identify significant capital spending, training, and non-capital equipment and supply needs that fall outside the financial capabilities of the Postal Service with or without relief from all of its retirement benefit accounting issues.   Until this and other similar investigations are completed, a significant portion of Congress will believe that all that is needed is to remove "waste, fraud and abuse" making fixing the retirement benefit accounting issues much more difficult.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the American Holocaust. see USSC 99-565 and whistleblower/documents

Anonymous said...

Don't dismiss the importance of this report. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There's lots more going on that nobody knows about. A few years ago over 20 people in HQ were told to take half a day off and given tickets and refreshment vouchers to see Pirates of the Caribbean. And then you have Bernstock and Lazeroff and Jaffer's improprieties, and they're just the ones that got caught in the act. All this stuff adds up.

Anonymous said...

the point of the article is that abuse of corporate expense accounts is not as egregious as the abuse of safety regulations that occurs every day and puts men and women at risk of severe injury. Our congress should be at least AS outraged by this flagrant disregard and endangerment of workers.

Anonymous said...

Credit card misuse strikes an easy to understand chord,
OSHA fines transfer money from one gov't. another. This is another way to raid Postal coffers.

Anonymous said...

fooncThe conviction of just three slacker workers defrauding worker's comp often produces the savings of 600 thousand dollars.

Now assuming that most worker's comp cases involve some degree of fraud, because, face it, the benefits are way above private levels, investment of investigation money in this area would produce great savings.

The OSHA issues are just usually technical matters that really do not ever affect the real working conditions or worker safety in the USPS. Usually by the time the changes are implemented the mail sortation technology has changed or the complaining worker has moved on. Most complainers are not held in high regard by their co workers.stabigo

uncommon cents said...

Very good article. I wonder how much this audit cost the USPS. I am quite certain that it would cost a lot more than $300K per year to enforce compliance and train employees to avoid ALL waste and abuse.
That is less than $.50 per employee per year.
This is about the cost of everyone in the USPS wasting time by extending one break during the course of a year by one minute.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the powers at be really care about OSHA violations or a few travel discrepancies. OSHA fines are just a quick way to convert stamp dollars into tax dollars since OSHA is under the federal budget.