USPS falling behind in upkeep of postal facilities, auditors say

Tuesday - 1/21/2014, 4:03pm EST

The U.S. Postal Service's financial woes are forcing the agency to put off vital maintenance and repair work of facilities across the country, according to the USPS inspector general.

"Add 'upkeep of postal facilities' to the list of tasks that get increasingly difficult to do under a budget crunch," the USPS IG wrote in a recent blog post, summarizing a Nov. 27 report about the agency's declining spending on postal facility upkeep.

Between 2009 and 2012, according to that report, the Postal Service's budget for capital improvements and facility repairs fell by $382 million. In 2012, alone, USPS spent about $266 million on facilities repairs — 29 percent less than the industry average, according to the report.

In 2011 and 2012, USPS left some 19,000 repairs — or 18 percent of the total planned repairs — uncompleted, the report stated.

The deferred repairs will likely lead to even higher costs in the future. Future repair costs are expected skyrocket to as much as $1.4 billion, according to the IG's estimate.

Even more troubling — about half of those incomplete repairs could lead to safety or security issues, the IG said. In fact, about 16 percent of the repairs represented potential Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations, which could put the agency on the hook for about $2.9 million in fines.

The USPS Facilities Department told the IG it prioritizes repairs based on safety. But the IG found USPS lacked a strategy to complete all necessary repairs and didn't always accurately prioritize repairs. For example, about 9 percent of all low-priority repairs were actually misidentified and should have been classified as high priority. The IG recommended that the Postal Service develop such a strategy and review and reconcile its prioritization list each year.

USPS officials agreed with the auditors' recommendations, although they did not state whether they agreed or disagreed with the IG's findings.

The Postal Service maintains a total of about 32,000 postal facilities across the U.S. representing 280 million square feet of total space.

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