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Highlights

Congress has directed the U.S. Postal Service to issue three fund-raising stamps, also called semipostals, since 1998. These stamps are sold at a higher price than First-Class stamps, with the difference going to federal agencies for specific causes. The proceeds from the three stamps address breast cancer research, assistance to families of emergency personnel killed or permanently disabled in the terrorist attacks of September 11, and domestic violence. The law authorizing the Breast Cancer Research stamp directed GAO to report on the fund-raising results. To provide additional information to the Congress, GAO expanded the study to include all three semipostals. GAO's study addressed (1) the amounts raised and the factors affecting sales, (2) how the designated agencies used the proceeds and reported the results, and (3) lessons learned for the Postal Service, agencies receiving the proceeds, and others.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To enhance accountability for semipostal proceeds, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Secretary of Health and Human Services should annually issue reports to the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the Service, as is currently required for agencies that are to receive semipostal proceeds under the Semipostal Authorization Act. Reports should include information on the amount of funding received, accounting for how the funds were allocated or otherwise used, and any significant advances or accomplishments that were funded, in whole or in part, out of the funds received through the semipostal program.
Closed - Implemented
In our report entitled U.S. Postal Service: Factors Affecting Fund-Raising Stamp Sales Suggest Lessons Learned (GAO-05-953) we reported that the Department of Defense (DOD) is not required to report to Congress on the use of proceeds from the Breast Cancer Research semipostal (BCRS), as is now required for semipostals under the Semipostal Authorization Act. We noted that reporting is beneficial because it enhances accountability by providing Congress and consumers with information about the use of semipostal proceeds. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense annually issue a report to the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the Postal Service that includes information on the amount of funding received, accounting for how the funds were allocated or otherwise used, and describes any significant advances of accomplishments that were funded by funds received from the BCRS. In response, DOD included a section on the use of BCRS proceeds in its annual report to Congress on Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. In July 2007, DOD forwarded its annual report to the Postal oversight committees of both the House and Senate. As a result, there is greater accountability for the proceeds of the BCRS.
Department of Health and Human Services 2. To enhance accountability for semipostal proceeds, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Secretary of Health and Human Services should annually issue reports to the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the Service, as is currently required for agencies that are to receive semipostal proceeds under the Semipostal Authorization Act. Reports should include information on the amount of funding received, accounting for how the funds were allocated or otherwise used, and any significant advances or accomplishments that were funded, in whole or in part, out of the funds received through the semipostal program.
Closed - Implemented
In our report entitled U.S. Postal Service: Factors Affecting Fund-Raising Stamp Sales Suggest Lessons Learned (GAO-05-953) we reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is not required to report to Congress on the use of proceeds from the Stop Family Violence semipostal, as is now required for semipostals under the Semipostal Authorization Act. We noted that reporting is beneficial because it enhances accountability by providing Congress and consumers with information about the use of semipostal proceeds. We recommended that the Secretary of Health and Human Services issue a report to the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the Postal Service that includes information on the amount of funding received, accounting for how the funds were allocated or otherwise used, and describes any significant advances of accomplishments that were funded by funds received from the Stop Family Violence semipostal. In response, HHS reported on the use of Stop Family Violence proceeds in a report to the Postal oversight committees of both the House and Senate in August 2007. As a result, there is greater accountability for the proceeds of the Stop Family Violence semipostal.
Department of Homeland Security 3. To enhance accountability for semipostal proceeds, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Secretary of Health and Human Services should annually issue reports to the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the Service, as is currently required for agencies that are to receive semipostal proceeds under the Semipostal Authorization Act. Reports should include information on the amount of funding received, accounting for how the funds were allocated or otherwise used, and any significant advances or accomplishments that were funded, in whole or in part, out of the funds received through the semipostal program.
Closed - Implemented
In 2005, GAO reported that a key lesson learned from the existing semipostals was that a reporting approach can enhance accountability. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is not required to report to Congress on the use of proceeds from the Heroes Semipostal, as is now required for semipostal issued under the Semipostal Authorization Act. The fund-raising organizations that GAO spoke with were unclear as to how semipostal proceeds were being used or would be used and none of these organizations knew of any outcomes resulting from these proceeds. These organizations said that program reporting is an important standard for ensuring accountability of charitable proceeds. GAO recommended that DHS issue a report to the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the Postal Service that includes information on the amount of funding received, accounting for how the funds were allocated or otherwise used, and describes any significant advances of accomplishments that received proceeds from the Heroes semipostal. In December 2011, FEMA reported on its use of the Heroes proceeds in a report to the Postal oversight committees of both the House and Senate. As a result, there is greater accountability and transparency regarding FEMA's use of the proceeds from the Heroes semipostal.

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