Let's say, just for conversation, that you run a large company with an equally large debt. So one day you look at the books and decide to conduct an outside audit just to confirm your financial information. So in comes the accountants. And let's say, again just for conversation, that the accountants examine a retirement fund account that your company funds regularly. And they find that instead of owing $32 billion to the retirement fund you only owe $5 billion. In most companies, the management would be fired on the spot for a $27 billion error. But not the United States Postal Service which uncovered the massive early Christmas present this week following an audit by the Office of Management and Budget.
And you wonder why the Postal Service seems to be in financial hot water all the time? Well the same people who return time and time again for rate increases are the very same people who miscalculated their debt by a whopping $27 billion. That's billion with a "b."
There's good news for the consumer in this blunder however. Now instead of asking for another rate hike in 2004, the Postal Service says it will be 2006 before they consider higher postal rates.
We follow the headlines of Enron and WorldCom and others with financial woes and call for Congressional investigation and criminal charges, etc. So though the cases are widely different, the financial mistake is just as great in this case. Granted, no taxpayer funds were stolen. But without someone uncovering this massive error, taxpayers would have surely paid higher postal rates much earlier than necessary.
I realize that the Postal Service has been hit with a host of problems. First came 9-11 and then the anthrax scare and then a faltering economy. But much worse than all of these is a $27 billion mistake. Try explaining that to the consumer next time you request higher rates.