USPS rapped on e-biz
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia
- Sep 11, 2000
USPS home page
Although the U.S. Postal Service's e-commerce activities are in their infancy,
they face an uphill battle to meet the standards of federal watchdogs, according
to testimony presented Sept. 7 at a Senate hearing.
The agency's e-commerce activities, including Stamps Online and eBillPay,
suffer from three main problems, according to the testimony of Bernard Ungar,
director of the General Accounting Office's government business operations
* Inconsistent definitions of e-commerce.
* Not adhering to formal project approval requirements and not properly
documenting those that are approved.
* Inconsistent financial reporting for cost and revenue data.
Ungar presented the GAO report, "U.S. Postal Service: Postal Activities
and Laws Related to Electronic Commerce," to the Senate Governmental Affairs
Committee's International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services Subcommittee.
To ensure more effective management and oversight, GAO recommended that
the postmaster general enact the following to counter the e-commerce problems:
* Properly identify e-commerce programs and maintain accurate information
related to their status.
* Follow processes and controls for developing and approving the activities.
* Provide complete data on costs and revenues for those activities.
"We embrace the GAO recommendations," said John Nolan, deputy postmaster
Nolan said USPS has begun to address GAO's concerns, including instituting
a new approval process for e-commerce activities that will provide quarterly
status reports to USPS' Board of Governors. "Management has proven its
ability in other challenging modernization efforts, and the board expects
no less in this challenging arena," said Robert Rider, vice chairman of
the Board of Governors.
But Edward Gleiman, chairman of the Postal Rate Commission, questioned
whether USPS should be in the e-commerce business at all and whether the
agency's products will produce revenue. He noted that a market test of
the NetPost Mailing Online service that guaranteed a printing contractor
a minimum revenue of $325,000 only produced about $23,000. "Pursuit of e-commerce
for its own sake may only serve to distract postal management, and divert
resources, from the critical demands of performing its public mission,"