Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Competitive Sourcing

Before we get into the joys of competitive sourcing, a big Angry, Drunk, Shout-Out to W. Mark Felt who proved that you don't fuck with the Bureaucracy, even if you're the President of the United States.

If I had an ADB Hall of Fame, he'd be in it, along with Allegheny County Economic Development Director Dennis Davin and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

But outside of all the media navel gazing about Deep Throat, the Federal Diary pages of the WaPo had two interesting articles from the last week on Competitive Sourcing, that is, the OMB directive to contract out services that the government usually does. The articles can be found here and here. The first article deals with the efficacy of Governmental Contracting and the second deals with Executive pressure to contract out services.

I have two major problems with subcontracting in the government: responsibility/culpability and patronage.

The first is fairly straight forward: someone has to be "the Grownup" in the Bureaucracy. Contractors are not interested public good, they are interested in private good, i.e., getting the next contract. The measure of a consultant and the measure of an employee is not the same measure. Employees are expected to remain loyal to the company; consultants, loyal to the project. Too many contractors and consultants means too many people looking after short term goals and stock prices and not looking after the long term health of the organization. Somebody needs to be there to "watch the store," as it were.

The second is the reason we wrote the friggin' Pendleton Act to begin with: to avoid individual interests from obtaining government employment from political connections. I'm suspicious that this drive towards privatization is being unduly influenced by contributions made by corporate, consulting donors. I previously noted that a whole chunk of change went into political coffers during the last election from consulting firms, and, while I'm pretty damned suspicious, I can't prove a quid pro quo or anything of significance.

Can Bureaucracies benefit from consultants? Yes. Should Bureaucracies rely on consultants to do their work... well... It depends.

Do you trust Arthur Andersen to run the Country or not?

No comments: