Some USPS officials manipulated performance ratings, audit finds

Top managers at the U.S. Postal Service arbitrarily reduced performance ratings for field supervisors, postmasters and managers, the ratings that govern annual salary increases and awards, according to a new audit report released by the USPS Office of Inspector General.

USPS Executive and Administrative Schedule employees, such as field supervisors and managers, are evaluated under a pay-for-performance system that is based on the National Performance Assessment and the employee's performance against individual core requirements, which are established by employees and their supervisors.

"Arbitrarily lowering employees’ end-of-year ratings can affect employee morale and their potential wage increases and bonuses, promotions, retirement annuity calculations, and Thrift Savings Plan contributions," the report states.

The OIG launched an investigation into the ratings process in response to a request from the National League of Postmasters, the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, and the National Association of Postal Supervisors. NAPS claimed that in many cases senior managers had agreed with the group’s members regarding their fiscal 2009 work accomplishments only to have upper managers arbitrarily lower the scores.

In its audit, the OIG found that senior managers responsible for determining final 2009 ratings for field supervisors, postmasters and managers departed from pay-for-performance procedures by lowering employees’ core requirement ratings.

In examining the ratings of 59 randomly selected employees, the OIG found that 46 percent of the evaluators responsible for rating the employees said the core requirement ratings they submitted for the employees were lowered at the next review level. Moreover, 40 percent of the second-level reviewers the OIG interviewed indicated that they had lowered the employees’ ratings.

Among the reasons evaluators cited for lowering ratings were that a superior instructed them to do so to bring ratings in line with National Performance Assessment unit scores or the evaluators themselves believed the ratings needed to be more in line with those scores.

The OIG also found that nine of the 11 postmaster evaluators in its sample violated policies by using numeric measures, such as retail revenue and total operating expenses, to evaluate the postmasters on their behavioral core requirements.

Postal service officials disagreed with the IG's methodology, but admitted that the performance reviews in the cases cited may have been inconsistent with the written program polices, according to the report.

The OIG audit report is available here.

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