IG encourages USPS to consider offering non-postal services

Wednesday - 7/25/2012, 4:45pm EDT

By Esther Carey
Special to Federal News Radio

U.S. Postal Service locations around the country could benefit from providing nonpostal services, a new report from the USPS Inspector General released Monday found.

The USPS is currently searching for viable ways to survive financially in a changing environment, as fewer people are sending mail and revenue is decreasing. The report noted that most of USPS's efforts thus far have focused on cutting costs by means of reducing the workforce or ending Saturday delivery. The service also closed several plants around the country earlier this year.

The IG report suggested the agency also look for ways to increase revenue and to create a positive view of the Postal Service brand by offering other types of services such as Internet access, notary services or passport services. Other experts recently have encouraged USPS to begin offering some banking services again. Other postal services around the world use similar opportunities to increase their revenue.

USPS would need some legislative changes before it could branch out. In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which prohibited USPS from introducing any new non-postal services. Lawmakers are considering legislation, however, that could reopen the door to offering services not connected with its traditional functions.

Auditors also identified other challenges including stakeholders who are not on board with expanding postal offerings and wage levels which could make it difficult for USPS to compete with commercial locations offering the same services. A low amount of foot traffic at many locations also could present a difficulty in earning a profit from new services.

The IG stated, however, that there are extra services which could be viable, at least in some situations. The report suggested that USPS evaluate what types of services could be the most profitable for post offices to offer, and in what settings. USPS management agreed with the recommendations and outlined some key steps such as defining the idea more concretely and possibly testing the idea.

Esther Carey is an intern at Federal News Radio.

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