U.S. Postal Service:

Enhancements Needed in Performance Planning and Reporting

GGD-00-207: Published: Sep 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Postal Service's (USPS) performance measures, reports, and plans, focusing on: (1) how well USPS fiscal year (FY) 1999 performance report addressed USPS' progress toward achieving the goals established by the FY 1999 performance plan; and (2) whether USPS' FY 2001 preliminary performance plan demonstrates continued progress in developing a reasonable basis for establishing accountability for results.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's assessments of USPS' FY 1999 performance report and its FY 2001 preliminary performance plan are not as positive as prior years' assessments of USPS' efforts under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA); (2) although both the FY 1999 performance report and FY 2001 performance plan contain several positive aspects, GAO did not see the continued progression of improvements in USPS' GPRA-related documents that GAO observed in the past; (3) more specifically, GAO believes that some aspects of USPS' FY 1999 performance report were not as straightforward and clearly stated as intended by GPRA, and some aspects of USPS' FY 2001 preliminary performance plan were not as comprehensive as that had been in prior plans; (4) GAO also has concerns about other aspects that may limit the plan's usefulness; (5) it appears that some aspects of USPS' FY 1999 performance report could be misleading; (6) the report could mislead readers into concluding that USPS' Total Factor Productivity increased during FY 1999 due to the report's portrayal of negative postal productivity as a strongly positive result; (7) there are also a number of reasons why USPS' FY 2001preliminary performance plan may not have been as useful to Congress, postal managers, and others as it could have been; and (8) those reasons include instances where: (a) without detailed explanation, several prior years' subgoals--and their associated indicators and targets--were not carried forward into FY 2001 preliminary performance plan; (b) the criteria USPS used to measure its success toward achieving certain goals were unclear; (c) the descriptions of strategies to accomplish certain results were incomplete; (d) information contained in prior years' plans were carried forward into the current years' plan without always being updated to reflect known or anticipated changes; and (e) little or no explanation was given on why the plan lacked baseline data for some quantitative indicators.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Postal Service Management stated that it agreed with the recommendations and would incorporate them into the Service's GPRA Performance Report in February 2001. GAO's review of the report indicated, as recommended, that the Service had included in its fiscal year 2001 report, more straightforward and clearly stated comparisons of planned targets and results.

    Recommendation: In order to improve the USPS' future performance reports, the Postmaster General should ensure that all sections of future reports reflect straightforward and clearly stated comparisons of planned targets and results so that readers are not misled regarding performance.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Postal Service Management stated that it agreed with the recommendations and would incorporate them into the Service's GPRA Performance Plans. GAO's preliminary reviews of subsequent performance plans indicate that the thrust of this recommendation has been implemented. The Service now incorporates into its annual comprehensive statement of postal operations its GPRA performance report--including analyses--as well as its preliminary future GPRA performance plans. Doing this facilitates easier identification of changes occurring from year to year.

    Recommendation: In order to improve the usefulness of USPS' future performance plans, the Postmaster General should include in USPS' future plans: (1) detailed explanations when subgoals, indicators, and targets contained in the prior year's plan are not carried forward into the current year plan; (2) clear criteria, including baseline data where possible, for measuring USPS' success toward achieving stated goals; (3) complete descriptions of strategies to accomplish stated goals; (4) updated information to reflect known or anticipated changes when discussing the linkage between performance goals and major programs; and (5) where applicable, explanations as to why baseline data are not being provided.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

 

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