OIG travel report provides ammunition for right wing

The right-wing anti-labor lobbying group “Citizens Against Government Waste” didn’t waste any time publicizing today’s OIG report on lax controls over USPS official travel expenses. The CAGW press release, like the earlier comments by Susan Collins, implies that postal employees “expensed” adult entertainment parties, personal computers, and their mortgage payments. The OIG report doesn’t say that, but apparently the story is going to stick unless the USPS can mount an effective PR response. (You would have thought that having known about the contents of this report for quite some time now, the agency would have pre-empted the bad publicity by getting its story out first.)

The CAGW statement goes on to repeat its usual litany of comments about “lavish” union salaries and benefits, distorts the trust fund issue, and says that postal employees are “still partying like it’s 1999”. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

But the funniest comment is this:

“Any proposal to tinker with the funding mechanism for retiree pension and health insurance liabilities, which are around $90 billion, is another example of USPS kicking the proverbial fiscal can down the road,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “The agency is locked into a smothering cost structure”

Schatz conveniently fails to note that the USPS has actually overfunded its pension liabilities, and that the most “smothering cost structure” the service suffers from is the requirement to continue that overfunding.

Schatz concludes by telling us that the USPS should be, you guessed it, privatized. You know, like Sweden.

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today expressed outrage on behalf of taxpayers at new reports of United States Postal Service (USPS) employees using business credit cards for personal travel, to expense adult entertainment parties, purchase personal computers, and pay their mortgages. The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe details the contents of the USPS Office of Inspector General’s report, “Over a two-year period, some postal workers used credit cards meant for travel and lodging expenses to buy family members flights to Spain and Italy, purchase Apple computers and make more than 50 purchases at ‘adult entertainment’ stores…All told, the mail agency could have saved more than $600,000 in excessive travel costs during fiscal 2009 and 2010 if it had cracked down on non-compliant workers, the report said.”

The inappropriate expenses occurred even while the USPS posted $8.5 billion in losses in 2010. It is on track to blow past its $15 billion statutory debt ceiling in September 2011 and is threatening to default on some of its financial obligations later this year after posting a loss of $329 million in the first quarter of 2011. The USPS is again lobbying for a change in the way it funds its retirees’ pension and healthcare benefits in order to forestall further declines in its financial condition. However, in 2009, Congress cut USPS’s retiree health benefit payment by $4 billion to address a significant shortfall, and USPS still recorded a loss of $3.8 billion. In addition, members of Congress have stymied the USPS’ attempts to close unnecessary facilities. Postal management is currently engaged in tense negotiations with one of its unions, the American Postal Workers Union. Union representatives have stated publicly that the union has no intention of relinquishing any of its lavish compensation or benefits, which are the most generous of all federal employees. USPS compensation and benefits comprise 80 percent of its total costs.

“Any proposal to tinker with the funding mechanism for retiree pension and health insurance liabilities, which are around $90 billion, is another example of USPS kicking the proverbial fiscal can down the road,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “The agency is locked into a smothering cost structure that prevents it from streamlining and restructuring to meet the steady decline in postal volume. The Government Accountability Office stated in April, 2010 that the agency’s business model is obsolete. Yet, postal management tolerate employees who are still partying like it’s 1999. Congress must follow the lead of many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, and New Zealand, and privatize the postal service,” concluded Schatz.

  • cpttuna

    If things are really this bad and knowledge is widespread, would someone please explain why someone (with a set) has not stepped in and done something???????

  • M. Jamison

    I sometimes wonder if Headquarters management has gone out of its way to make this more of a political football than it already is. It’s apparent that BOG and senior management have charted a course that will cripple the Postal Service as a public service with a universal service mandate. They are acting more like a private equity shop, gutting the assets, extracting value and then dumping what might be left into the private market.
    David Williams, head of the OIG testified that the Postal Service needed some outside thinking and fresh ideas. It’s time to dump the BOG and senior management and bring in a fresh group. Someone, somewhere has to step up and engage in some serious truth telling or we’re going to irrevocably damage an important piece of our national infrastructure.

  • Gunther

    Although the cards are issued by the USPS, the owner of the card is the employee. The name on the card is that of the employee, the bills and any accrued interest are the responsibility of the person that the card is issued to. Unless a valid travel claim is submitted to cover the costs, the USPS does not pay anything on charges on the card. The OIG report makes it sound like the USPS actually paid for all of these charges.

  • hrdcorefan

    No private, for-profit company is interested in buying a revenue-producing, publicly owned asset like USPS and privatizing it for the purpose of providing more efficient services. The ONLY reason they would buy the USPS is for pure simple profit. Look what it is happening with OUR taxpayer paid roads and highways. In Indiana, the state’s major toll road was privatized a few years back. Toll increases and declining drivers using the roads has caused constant increases the tolls to maximize their return on their investment. Here in Texas, more private companies, some even foreign-owned, are buying OUR roads and then charging us to drive on them! In Chicago, the city sold the city’s 36,000 parking meters for 75 years to private investment group Morgan Stanley who promptly raised prices (quadrupled) and got rid of free parking on Sundays. And finally in Florida, they privatizied their food stamps program with J.P. Morgan, who outsourced it to an India call center to process the claims. How American is that?

  • Idiotland

    How do you know a conservative(either corporate party, it doesn’t matter)is lying? Their lips are moving.

  • Idiotland

    Unfortunately, it’s now very American. This really has to be the dumbest empire in human history. We make the Roman empire look farsighted.