Because of the pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service had to suspend walk-in passport application services and require appointments be made in advance. Add in a drop in international travel, again because of the pandemic, it’s no real surprise USPS experienced a 34 percent drop in passport application revenue from fiscal year 2019 to 2020.
Still, we wanted to see if there were opportunities to improve the Postal Service’s overall passport application acceptance operations. Our recent audit report discussed how operations were generally compliant with requirements set by the State Department, which processes and approves all applications. On the other hand, we found USPS could improve both quality and effectiveness related to appointment scheduling, data accuracy, coordination with State Department stakeholders, and performance goals.
For instance, we noted Postal Service employees sometimes improperly blocked appointment times or used an incorrect email format when reserving appointments on behalf of customers. We also found customers blocked large numbers of appointments improperly. Why did this happen? Because there were no mechanisms in place to detect or prevent it. We also identified at least four State Department reports on passport operations that could provide USPS management with additional insight in identifying areas of improvement. Management had not been aware of these reports.
We recommended, among other things, more coordination with the State Department and enhancing USPS performance metrics for passport operations. Implementing these operational improvements in a timely manner will be important as walk-in services have recently resumed in select areas at the discretion of local facility management.