Postal Issues:

The Department of State's Implementation of Its International Postal Responsibilities

GGD-00-40: Published: Jan 31, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the Department of State has implemented its new responsibilities for U.S. policy regarding U.S. participation in the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

GAO noted that: (1) State faced difficult challenges in assuming its new UPU-related responsibilities less than a year before the UPU Congress met in August and September 1999 to update binding agreements governing international postal service; (2) State's performance in implementing these new responsibilities was uneven in that GAO found strengths in some areas and opportunities for improvement in other areas; (3) State made progress in its first year in providing stakeholders and the general public with relevant information on UPU matters and giving them an opportunity to offer input into U.S. policy concerning the UPU; (4) State coordinated with the United States Postal Service, other federal agencies, and other nongovernmental stakeholders that were involved in UPU matters and included some of these stakeholders in the U.S. delegation to the UPU Congress; (5) stakeholders said that State was receptive to input and evenhanded in its consideration of views; (6) in addition, State clearly signaled changes to U.S. policy on issues related to UPU reform; (7) State officials said that the United States presented a different view and approach to the UPU with respect to raising issues of UPU reform that gave impetus to the UPU's decision to establish a process to consider reform issues; (8) several options exist for State to develop a more structured and open process for obtaining stakeholder input including ensuring better and more advance notification of public meetings and more advance distribution of materials prior to these meetings; (9) some stakeholders have raised concerns about the potential burden on State of using a formalized process to handle UPU-related responsibilities as well as whether such a process would be beneficial; (10) in this regard, 10 of 19 federal agencies that accounted for 90 percent of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committees have reported that FACA requirements are more useful than burdensome; (11) representatives of federal and nonfederal organizations in the U.S. delegation to the UPU Congress said that staff turnover, combined with the limited time available before the UPU Congress, affected State's ability to fully understand the implications associated with various complex UPU policy issues; and (12) providing sufficient institutional continuity and expertise will be essential if State intends to play a leadership role in handling complex UPU issues and dealing with domestic and international stakeholders.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of State has taken several specific actions to improve its handling of its international postal policy responsibilities by implementing the recommendations. First, State has assigned a senior-level member of its career staff to work on UPU matters. Second, State has improved its web site on international postal policy, such as posting minutes of UPU meetings; improved outreach to invite stakeholders to public meetings and to solicit comments on UPU issues; invited private sector representatives to attend meetings of the UPU group considering UPU reform; held public and interagency meetings; and started to maintain minutes of these meetings.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should take appropriate steps to: (1) establish a process for developing U.S. policy on UPU matters that would be more structured, timely, open, and conducive to meaningful stakeholder input as well as develop a readily accessible public record; and (2) provide sufficient staff continuity and expertise to handle its UPU responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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