A Case Study of Why Some Postal Rate Commission Decisions Took as Long as They Did

GGD-81-96: Published: Sep 8, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 8, 1981.

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Because of concerns over the Postal Rate Commission's protracted delays in rendering recommended decisions on two Postal Service proposals, GAO was requested to determine whether the time required was necessary to satisfy the rights of due process of the interested parties.

The formal trial-like hearings that the Postal Rate Commission must hold contribute substantially to the overall length and cost of participating in Commission proceedings. The Commission must provide interested parties with an opportunity for a hearing to make their views known on U.S. Postal Service proposals for changes in postal rates or mail classifications. GAO reviewed two recent cases which consumed 15 months each before the Commission rendered its initial recommended decision. In the first case, the following factors contributed to the length of the proceedings: the Postal Service changed its testimony and objected to discovery efforts; the parties disagreed over the nature and scope of the case; and the Commission staff initially considered the case to be deficient, but the case was allowed to continue. In the second proposal, GAO found that: time-consuming consideration of the process was followed by the Postal Service in selecting its telecommunications contractor; extensive procedural conflicts continued throughout the proceeding; there were testimony revisions by a Postal Service witness; and there was consideration of the Officer of the Commission's alternative system. Under the procedures prescribed by the controlling legislation and given the number of participants and the sheer volume of data which must be provided, even the simplest proposal can become a complex and lengthy case. The harmonious working relationship which Congress envisioned will not be realized if jurisdictional disputes continue.

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