Last Oct. 25, the Lancaster Avenue post office had 68,493 delayed letters, magazines and packages, a new federal inspector general’s report found.
And not one was logged as delayed, as it should have been.
That stat is just one part of a numbing inspection of three post offices in New Castle County and three in Philadelphia. The tone is dry, and the problems are rampant.
The 21-page report found deficiencies in each post office in five targeted areas: delayed mail, package scanning, truck arrival scanning, arrow keys (master keys used, among other places, in apartment buildings) and property conditions.
The report comes among continuing complaints about postal service, include days of skipped mail, long delivery times and long lines waiting for service.
It made eight recommendations (with local managers “agreeing” with them all), but it’s not clear when the causes cited – repeatedly, lack of staff and inadequate training – will be fixed.
The inspector general “considers management’s comments responsive to the recommendations and their planned actions should resolve the issues identified in the report,” the report concludes.
The Wilmington area was audited “based on Congressional interest in Delaware” and concerns raised in a U.S. House hearing last September.
The station in Philadelphia’s Germantown section was audited at the request of Sen. Robert P. Casey and Rep. Dwight Evans.
The inspector general “judgmentally selected” the other five offices based on the number of “stop-the-clock scans occurring at the units, rather than at the customers’ point of delivery.”
In other words, somebody marked the item “delivered” before the carrier made it to the addressee.
“Judgmentally selected” means they used their expertise of where and what to analyze.
The six offices were Edgemoor, Lancaster Avenue and Marshallton in Delaware, along with Germantown, Logan and North Philadelphia in Philadelphia.
The audit started in October to look for election mail – it found 26 pieces of delayed election mail in Philadelphia – and continued through February.
Delays at Delaware post offices
Managers in Lancaster Avenue explained the delays occurred because they were short-staffed; they had several inexperienced employees; and managers miscommunicated.
Managers in Edgemoor said managers were inexperienced and “were not aware of proper guidelines and reporting policy” on logging delayed mail; and they were short-staffed.
Managers in Marshallton said “they did not adequately monitor operations” because they were “busy with other tasks, including managing staffing and participating in daily meetings.” The acting supervisor was also “not aware of proper procedures” for reporting delayed mail and had missed seeing 129 packages left behind in a retail window the night before.
Between July and September, the audit found 5,337 packages were scanned (say, marked “delivered”) at the post office, rather than at the delivery point. The audit doesn’t say how many packages were handled by these offices during that time, to put that number into perspective.
On Oct. 25, the inspector general “judgmentally selected” 85 packages awaiting carriers and 146 packages in the “notice left” area for deeper analysis. Of the 85 packages awaiting carriers, 46 had scanning or handling issues, including six that had been marked “delivered” even though they hadn’t left the building. Of the 146 other packages, 110 had scanning or handling issues.
The reasons were more of the same: “more focused on monitoring staff” in Marshallton, inadequate training in Edgemoor and “overwhelmed with failed deliveries and undelivered routes” in Lancaster Avenue.
Postal employees are supposed to scan all incoming trailer/truck barcodes. The Lancaster Avenue station hit 100% in the July 1-Sept. 30 assessment, while Edgemoor hit only 83%, and Marshallton hit only 43%. In Marshallton, the acting branch manager did not have access to these reports.
All six branches had issues with the arrow keys, used for places like apartment buildings. Inventories were not updated, and some keys were not logged. The refrain here included other priorities and a missing door where the keys were kept in Marshallton; inadequate training and insufficient staff in Edgemoor; and inexperience and other priorities in Lancaster Avenue.
The audit found “safety, security and maintenance issues at all six delivery units.”
In Marshallton, the issues included a blocked electrical panel, damaged walls and dirty air vents. Management took corrective action.
In Edgemoor, the issues included a blocked door, a dirty lobby wall and cracked concrete. All issues were remediated.
In Lancaster Avenue, the sole issue was a missed annual inspection of the five fire extinguishers.
The excuses: inexperience (Marshallton), lack of awareness (Edgemoor) and other priorities (Lancaster Avenue).
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