The Washington Post quotes a statement by Senator Susan Collins on today’s OIG report on problems with the USPS’s travel reimbursement program. Collins’ statement contains a couple of incorrect and misleading assertions.
To start with, Collins says “It is very frustrating that an organization that was $8.5 billion in the hole last year, has not adopted a frugal culture.”
Collins fails to note that $5.5 billion of that deficit was her own doing- that’s the amount the USPS was required, by Collins’ 2006 PAEA law, to pay into its already overfunded future retiree health benefits trust fund.
Collins goes on to say : “I am alarmed that at various levels of approval, no one at the Postal Service balked at the purchase of airline tickets to Spain and Italy, the purchase of an Apple computer, or more than 50 charges at adult entertainment establishments. It is unconscionable that these charges were rung up and the bill sent to the American taxpayers.”
What’s truly unbelievable is that a Senator who claims to be the architect of postal reform doesn’t understand the basic concept that the US Postal Service is NOT financed by the “American taxpayers”. More to the point though, Collins doesn’t understand that the improper charges she mentions were never billed to anyone except the people holding the credit cards. The OIG report dealt with government travel cards. While these cards are meant to be used only for official travel, they are personal credit card accounts. The individuals holding the cards are solely responsible for paying any charges made with them- not the federal government, and not the US Postal Service.
Update: I neglected to note that the Washington Post headline is also incorrect. “Postal workers expensed private travel and ‘adult entertainment'” suggests that the USPS was paid for those inappropriate purchases. The OIG report doesn’t say that- it says travel cards were used to make those purchases. As explained above, the employee, not the USPS, is responsible for paying those charges.