Postal Service:

Acceptance Procedures for Bulk Mailings: Further Improvement Needed

GGD-86-61: Published: May 16, 1986. Publicly Released: May 16, 1986.

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James G. Mitchell
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GAO reviewed the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) implementation of the National Bulk-Rate Mail Verification Program to determine whether: (1) bulk-mail clerks are complying with program guidelines; (2) verification of bulk-rate mail is adequate; and (3) management oversight is effective at each organizational level.

GAO found that: (1) although the program has improved mail preparation, it still has some operational shortcomings; (2) three of the five management sectional centers (MSC) visited had mail entering the mail stream without formal acceptance and inspection; (3) inadequate records management made it impossible to determine if USPS made all of the required verification tests; (4) between June 1983 and November 1984, 322 mailings that originated at station or branch post offices bypassed acceptance processing at two MSC; and (5) although verification of all bulk-rate mail is necessary for correct presort to qualify for a discount rate, USPS continues to accept an unknown amount of unverified mail at discount rates. GAO also found that: (1) mail clerks worked independently with little or no supervision; (2) unit supervisors at all but one center did not make quality control checks to ensure that clerks followed prescribed sampling procedures or routinely reviewed completed verification forms for accuracy; (3) clerks often reported higher error rates when their performance was being observed; (4) management oversight was limited at all regional offices; and (5) there was no evidence that management used available statistical data to identify and correct program deficiencies or took action to correct incorrect data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Sampling and verification procedures were revised.

    Recommendation: To improve the integrity of the bulk-mail verification program, and thus avoid unnecessary mail processing costs, the Postmaster General should have bulk mail acceptance units increase the level of supervision provided to verification clerks. Supervisors should at least: (1) ensure that clerks follow prescribed sampling and testing procedures, including the maintenance of logs; and (2) routinely review verification forms for accuracy and completeness.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An agencywide reorganization occurred. Functions were placed at the post office level.

    Recommendation: To strengthen management oversight, the Postmaster General should make one organizational level responsible for: (1) organizing training teams and managing their activities; (2) compiling and reporting test statistics generated by field units and training teams; and (3) identifying program deficiencies, recommending and following up on corrective actions, and providing feedback to postmasters.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: New forms and procedures were developed.

    Recommendation: To ensure that bulk-rate mail does not evade the verification process, the Postmaster General should: (1) revise bulk-mail verification forms to include overall shipment size so that matching them with mailing statements ensures that clerks are verifying all bulk-rate mail; and (2) instruct MSC managers to identify mail that is continuously bypassing verification and to take steps to verify the make-up of this mail.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service


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