Archive for April 13th, 2011
OIG finds supervisors changed employees clock rings without justification, recommends better training, controls
In response to Congressional inquiries and complaints from employees, the USPS Inspector General investigated charges that supervisors falsified time and attendance records to reduce employees’ paid work hours.
The report issued last week found that supervisors did improperly modify the records, but says that the lack of documentation makes it impossible to determine whether the deletions were justified. The report doesn’t recommend discipline or criminal charges, suggesting that management improve its training and controls over time and attendance:
Management controls over time and attendance at the locations included in our audit were not adequate to ensure employeesâ€™ workhours were reported accurately. As a result, we could not determine with certainty the reasons supervisors altered employee time and attendance records. Specifically, we found that Postal Service supervisors did not complete the required Postal Service (PS) Form 1017-A, Time Disallowance Record, or PS Form 3971, Request for or Notification of Absence, from the Enterprise Resource Management System (eRMS). We also found questionable deletions of clock rings by supervisors in the Dover, NH; Gastonia, NC; and Parkville, MO Post Offices. In addition, supervisors did not follow procedures for documenting employeesâ€™ out-of-schedule changes in TACS. Furthermore, we found supervisors at the Parkville, MO Post Office improperly charged safety talks and informational meetings to operation code 782, Training.
We recommend the vice president, Controller:
1. Establish and implement controls in the Time and Attendance Collection System to document supervisorsâ€™ justification of changes to employees’ time.
We recommend the vice president, Delivery and Post Office Operations:
2. Issue supplemental guidance emphasizing the importance of completing Postal Service Form 1017-A, Time Disallowance Record, and PS Form 3971, Request for or Notification of Absence.
3. Establish a review and approval process to ensure time disallowances are appropriate and documented as required.
4. Establish periodic monitoring of clock ring deletions to ensure employee workhours are recorded accurately.
5. Provide periodic refresher training to managers, postmasters, supervisors, and acting supervisors on the Time and Attendance Collection System.
6. Issue supplemental guidance to supervisors and managers regarding the appropriate use of operation codes associated with recording safety talks and informational meetings in the Time and Attendance Collection System.
Update: Dead Tree Edition has published a correction.
Dead Tree Edition has an article about the Congressional franking privilege, and the unfair advantage it gives Members of Congress at election time. Unfortunately, the central premise of the piece, that franking is a “freebie” subsidized by USPS customers, is incorrect. The author writes:
Congress provides no compensation to the Postal Service for franked mail. That means that either other mailers pay for all those newsletters in the form of higher postage rates or that USPS goes further into the red.
In fact Congress does pay for franked mail. As a 2007 Congressional Research Service report on franking said: “Congress pays the U.S. Postal Service for franked mail through annual appropriations for the legislative branch.” (A copy of the report appears below.)
This is similar to the way the USPS is paid for official mail sent by federal agencies- money is appropriated to the agencies, not directly to the USPS. The agencies then use the appropriated funds to purchase postage from the USPS the same as any other mailer.
The article gives the impression that congressmen and senators can send as much mail as they like to their constituents “as election time rolls around”, but the fact is that each member has a set amount to spend for postage, and each house sets limits on what can be sent in the period leading up to elections:
Senators are prohibited from sending mass mailings fewer than 60 days prior to any primary election in which they are a candidate, as well as 60 days prior to any general election, regardless of whether or not they are a candidate. House Members are prohibited from sending mass mailings fewer than 90 days prior to any general or primary election in which they are a candidate, and are prohibited from sending unsolicited mass mailings outside their district.
Does franking provide an unfair advantage to incumbent members of Congress? Absolutely- but it’s not as cut and dried as the Dead Tree article suggests, and it’s not paid for by USPS customers- as the required endorsement on franked mass mailings says, it’s “Prepared, Published, and Mailed at Taxpayer Expense.”
A federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland returned a two-count indictment charging Chrisoula Pipilakis, age 33, of Akron, Ohio, with embezzling mail and unauthorized opening of mail, Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced today.
The indictment alleges that from November 1, 2010, until on or about November 17, 2010, Chrisoula Pipilakis, then a Postal Service letter carrier a the Firestone and Five Points Post Office Stations, located in Akron, Ohio, did open and steal the contents from several letters, including gift cards and correspondence, which had come into her possession for delivery to persons residing in Akron, Ohio.
If convicted, the defendantâ€™s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendantâ€™s prior criminal record, if any, the defendantâ€™s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum, and in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Duane J. Deskins, following an investigation by the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the governmentâ€™s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
BIRMINGHAM â€“ A vehicle maintenance supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service and two maintenance vendors have been charged in federal court with conspiracy to defraud the Postal Service of more than $300,000 in a billing kick-back scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, Postal Service Office of Inspector Generalâ€™s Major Fraud Investigations Division Special Agent in Charge Torri Piper, and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael McDaniel.
Charges were unsealed today charging CEDRIC NALLS, a supervisor at the Postal Service Vehicle Maintenance Facility in Birmingham, and vendors WILLIAM MARK PAYTON, 44, and ALLEN JOSEPH LAW, 38, with conspiring to submit fraudulent invoices and to conceal payment on the false invoices.
A federal grand jury in March returned a 56-count indictment against Nalls, 41, of Birmingham, charging him with mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the Postal Service through payment on false claims and conspiracy to conceal payments he received through the scheme.
Also in March, federal prosecutors charged Payton, 44, of Bessemer, and Law, 38, of Birmingham, with one count each of conspiring to both defraud the Postal Service and to conduct financial transactions designed to conceal proceeds of that fraud. Both Payton and Law have entered into plea agreements with the government on the conspiracy charge. The plea agreements were unsealed along with the charges.
â€œThis case involves a supervisor with the U.S. Postal Service who was entrusted with the duty to select and pay vendors for work done, and he abused that trust,â€ Vance said. â€œThis fraud strikes at all of us who support the Postal Service and depend on its swift and reliable performance,â€ Vance said.
â€œThe Postal Service manages almost $42 billion in contracts, ranging from multi-million dollar national contracts to local vehicle maintenance service contracts. Although most contracts and payments are managed appropriately, the huge dollar value provides opportunities for contractors and employees to defraud the Postal Service,â€ Piper said. â€œThe Office of Inspector General is constantly on watch for improprieties and fraud and, when uncovered, aggressively investigates, as occurred in this case.â€
â€œFinancial crimes such as those alleged in these indictments can thrive for a while, but eventually the web of deceit untangles, exposing the fraud,â€ McDaniel said. â€œIRS Criminal Investigation is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to uncover and investigate all forms of financial fraud.â€
According to Nallsâ€™ indictment and the charges against Payton and Law, the conspiracy was conducted as follows:
Payton owned Bill Payton Automotive, and Law owned The Paint House, both vendors who provided maintenance and repair work on Postal Service vehicles through its maintenance facility in Birmingham.
Nalls, as a supervisor at the maintenance facility, had access to credit card numbers assigned to postal vehicles and provided the numbers to venders so they could request payment from the Houston company that managed billing for the facility. The company, U.S. Bank Voyager Fleet Systems Inc., would pay the vendors by mailing them checks or making direct deposits into the vendorsâ€™ bank accounts. The Postal Service paid Voyager for money it sent to vendors.
Nalls arranged with Payton and Law to provide them with vehicle credit card numbers so they could seek payment for work never done. They would return a portion of those payments to Nalls after receiving them in their bank accounts.
The indictment against Nalls seeks forfeiture of $330,000. Nalls faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each fraud count, 20 years on the money laundering conspiracy count, and 10 years on the conspiracy to defraud count.
Payton and Law face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on their conspiracy charges.
The U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, and IRS, Criminal Investigation, investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Martin is prosecuting it.