U.S. Postal Service:

Issues Related to Governance of the Postal Service

GGD-97-141: Published: Aug 14, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1997.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO obtained information on Postal Service governance issues, focusing on: (1) any major areas of concern, including specific issues, that current and former members of the Postal Service Board of Governors have about the Board and their suggested legislative changes; (2) major characteristics of the Postal Service's Board of Governors with the characteristics of selected boards of their government-created corporations or corporation-like organization to identity similarities and dissimilarities, particularly as they relate to the major areas of concern identified by current and former Board members; and (3) information on governance issues that might be helpful to the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Postal Service Subcommittee as it deliberates Postal Service reform.

GAO noted that: (1) a majority of current and former members of the Postal Service Board of Governors GAO interviewed said legislative attention was needed in three broad areas; (2) however, there was not a consensus among the members on what the specific issues were within each area of concern, or what legislative changes should be considered to address their concerns; (3) the major areas of concern were the Board's authority, Board members' compensation, and Board members' qualifications; (4) within these broad areas of concern, the most frequently cited issues were: (a) the limitations on the Board's authority to establish postage rates; (b) the inability of the Board to pay the Postmaster General more than the rate for level I of the Executive Schedule; (c) the Board's lack of pay comparability with the private sector; and (d) qualification requirements that are too general to ensure that Board appointees possess the kind of experience necessary to oversee a major government business; (5) GAO's comparison of the Board of Governors with nine other boards of government-created organizations showed both similarities and dissimilarities; (6) similarities indicate that these boards were created to function much like private-sector corporate boards; (7) dissimilarities, however, reflect the amount of flexibility the boards were given to operate like private sector corporations; (8) GAO also identified four broad areas where some of the interviewees, but less than a majority, believed legislative attention was needed; (9) these areas were the Board's mission and responsibilities, the Board's relationship with Postal management, the Board's accountability and performance measures, and Board composition; (10) the most frequently cited issues in these areas were: (a) uncertainties as to how far the Board should go in letting the Postal Service compete and operate like a private-sector corporation; (b) the limited specificity in law concerning the Board's oversight responsibilities, and (c) perceptions that the Chief Postal Inspector may not have all the independence the position requires; and (11) the interviewees' concerns about many issues, such as Board authority, accountability, and how far to let the Postal Service go in competing and operating like a private sector corporation, are issues being grappled with in the larger context of streamlining government operations.

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