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USPS spent $110 million reprocessing mail they had misrouted over seven months in 2020

A new inspector general report details the basic workplace failures that have resulted in costly efforts to redirect misrouted mail.

Updated: February 28, 2021 - 10:35am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The ward is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s. 

This week, our award is going to the United States Postal Service (USPS) for spending $110 million over seven months in 2020 attempting to reprocess, rehandle, and redirect misrouted mail.

According to an inspector general report released last week, a recent audit of the mail agency identified "misrouted mail as the number one cause for service failure." Three of the inspector general's main recommendations suggest just how avoidable most of last year's misrouted mail mishaps really were.

First, the inspector general suggests that management provide written reminders to employees to "remove old routing labels from mail trays and bags before reuse" lest packages end up, predictably enough, at the wrong place.

Second, the report recommends requiring supervisors to ensure that employees follow "standard work instructions" for sorting machines because if the machines are not properly calibrated, packages end up missing their intended mail bins and wind up instead on the floor of the processing facility. 

Third, the report advises Postal Service management to reinforce the policy requiring employees remove bins timely from processing machines to prevent overflow" lest incoming mail pieces "be deflected into the wrong mail bin." 

Postal Service management mostly agreed with the recommendations of the inspector general's office, undertaking to communicate with employees to reinforce standard operating procedures and policies regarding, for example, removal of old routing labels and prompt removal of mail bins from processing machines. However, management seems to be in no particular hurry to bring employee performance into compliance with relevant standards and policies — setting a target implementation date for some of these recommendations of Aug. 31, 2021.

A full six months to deliver the message that postal employees should not let mail bins overflow: Is it any wonder the postal service has a hard time delivering your mail on time?