Postal Service: On stamps, and duties

  • Absence of Policies and Procedures
  • Non-compliance with the Records Management Standards
  • Ineffective Review of Collections for Deposit
  • Weaknesses of the Point of Sale (POS) System
  • Ineffective Credit Management Procedures
  • Third Party Bill Payment Collections Not Adequately Safeguarded

And that’s just the Table of Contents …

The substance of the recently published 30-page report on the Cayman Islands Postal Service by government auditors is consistently damning throughout, depicting the results of a decades-long devolution of a once-proud (and profitable) public institution into today’s bureaucratic morass that drains $1 million from the central treasury each year.

Fraught with inefficiencies, failures and finger-pointing, our Postal Service, led since 2003 by Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow, is Cayman’s poster child for government waste, ineffectiveness and, most importantly, lack of accountability.

Quoting the government’s own Internal Audit Unit:

“[T]he severity of these deficiencies is considered to be very high due to their risk implications for the accuracy of the government’s financial statements and exposure to losses in government asset.

“Management has attributed a number of these deficiencies to the lack of adequate staff resources, as well as some employees’ refusal to comply with instructions and directives despite repeated requests.”

No wonder consultants from Ernst & Young recommended, in their September 2014 “Project Future” report, that government extract itself from the postal business as soon and as thoroughly as possible.

In the EY report, the Postal Service’s hierarchy identified perhaps the sole remaining useful function of the agency:

“[M]anagement have indicated that there exists a historic practice that the Postal Service be one of [government’s] social employers for the functionally illiterate, computer phobic and otherwise unemployable.”

Lest anyone try to pin the blame on multicultural disconnects, the Postal Service (according to government’s Annual HR Report for 2013/14) has 83 employees, 78 of whom are Caymanian, including longtime Postmaster General Glasgow (not to be confused with her sister Corrine Glasgow, who held that spot from 1994 to 1996). The Postal Service, indeed, is an example of homegrown dysfunction.

Though deficiencies run throughout the organization, the most telling reactions come from the very top.

First, Postmaster General Glasgow. For the most part, in the Internal Audit Unit’s report she agrees with the findings of auditors, claims that things have changed, and — what is uninspiring behavior from a CEO — often attempts to shift blame to individual civil servants (who, it appears, nevertheless manage to escape any real consequences).

Second, House Speaker Julianna O’Connor-Connolly, who was Minister responsible for the Postal Service during the first two of the three years examined by the auditors. Her response to the situation has been well-documented — namely, jetting off to Qatar in October 2012 (the midst of the audit period) in lavish style for the weeklong “25th Universal Postal Congress,” with four others Cayman officials, including Postmaster General Glasgow, who together racked up tens of thousands of dollars in expenses, paid for by Cayman taxpayers.

While in those oasiatic surroundings, Ms. O’Connor-Connolly sent out a missive proclaiming that “The Cayman Islands Postal Service is still holding its own in the face of this era of developing technology. In fact … CIPS has received a bronze award for its Express Mail Service (EMS) — the courier service within the postal industry. This clearly demonstrates that we continue to innovate and therefore can compete on the world stage.”

The Internal Audit Unit’s findings of actual conditions at the Postal Service belie that political-speak, and take the sheen off that bronze.

Finally, Minister Kurt Tibbetts, who has had the Postal Service in his portfolio since summer 2013, a term including the final months of the audit period, as well as the following year of silence while the government failed to publish the report.

Although we name him last, by rights Minister Tibbetts should be the first to explain why, in light of all these findings, the government should not follow consultants’ advice and privatize Cayman’s underperforming, unaccountable and unaffordable Postal Service.

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  1. Mr Editor, well said!
    Actually I think you should have been harder. First the audit report, it really is the most damning I can recall reading. What you have done , however, is to link the EY report , and indeed the Hon Juliana’s prodigious travel expenses, and together they represent all that is wrong with the Islands’ systems.
    The EY report mentions the use of a Government department to employ unemployables. Quite right, if there is a need to fund such people, and I believe there is, then fund it as budget item where it can be seen, and questioned. As it stands, one inefficiency hides another, first a grossly dysfunctional postal system. In turn that hides responsibility, both politically and in management.
    What is clear is that most of the management should go, soon. Your piece illustrates that well. In addition the political aspect is almost worse, first the duty of policy and oversight is totally missing. Once again though, there is something worse, and that is the obscene misuse of public money by the previous minister, on her trip with most of her department, to an expensive location, for three times the time required, if indeed any time was required.
    I hope you will continue to laud the efforts of the Auditor, and to press for change as the EY report recommends.

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  2. The Cayman Islands have issued their own stamps since 1900, and have had a very proud and distinctive philatelic history throughout the past 115 years. As a very serious collector of Caymanian Philatelic items, it was always my pleasure to deal with the staff of the Cayman Island Postal Service, especially the management of the Philatelic Bureau. However, in the past year or so, it has become quite clear that priorities have changed. Whilst, I can’t comment on domestic issues, however, please keep in mind that revenues from the sale of Cayman stamps to international customers is quite significant. If I was a new customer, I would drop you out of my portfolio all together. The service provided today is next to non existent, repeated e-mails to the managers go un-answered. You have a money maker, with regards the stamps, but bureaucracy keeps on stepping into to stifle any results.
    Regards

    Eric

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