Wednesday, January 20, 2010

OIG Says USPS Overpaid Federal Government $75 Billion

A Stunning Announcement:

Burrus Update 03-2010, Jan. 20, 2010

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has issued a stunning announcement [PDF]:
The USPS has been overcharged $75 billion in contributions to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pension fund.

After an in-depth investigation, the OIG has concluded that an inequitable system for computing the Postal Service’s CSRS pension responsibility has caused the dramatic overpayment. The OIG study [PDF] was conducted in conjunction with the Hay Group, a well-known economic consulting firm.

The funding error follows two previous findings that the Postal Service had been required to overfund its pension obligations. In 2002 it was determined that the Postal Service was on track to overfund CSRS by $78 billion, and in 2003 the USPS was overcharged $27 billion for CSRS military service credits. The earlier overpayments were corrected by legislation adopted in 2003 and 2006, respectively.

The newest overfunding debacle, if corrected, would more than offset the Postal Service’s deficit from Fiscal Year 2009 and the expected shortfalls in FY 2010 and 2011. The doomsday predictors of the imminent demise of the Postal Service must now find a new rationale for their efforts to dismantle postal services.

The cry for a new business model and legislative relief ring hollow when USPS financial difficulties could be fully resolved by returning to the Postal Service the overpayments made to date. Realigning the network, reducing employee compensation and benefits, and transferring the cost of universal service to individual mailers can now be exposed for the fraudulent exercises they represent. Instead, we can engage in a meaningful dialogue about the future of hard-copy communication and the role of postal services in the 21st century — without the looming threat of bankruptcy.

This report is good news for a beleaguered government service. USPS service standards and productivity have remained at high levels; the economy is recovering, and the black cloud of fiscal insolvency could be removed. All parties in the postal community who wish to be of assistance must join in an effort to correct the inequity and relieve the Postal Service of the unjustified funding requirement.

In the meantime, we can take a deep breath and stop the momentum for another round of harmful postal “reform.” And after the attrition of 115,000 APWU-represented positions since 2002, we would appreciate a public recognition that our members have contributed their share.

William Burrus

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