Monday, June 30, 2014

How to lessen government fraud


Chico-based consultant William Sims Curry specializes in creating clear and equitable processes for government grant acquisition. He’s seen too many cases of a dysfunctional system, where, for example, those in Congress favor certain defense contractors not because those contractors are offering the best deal, but the best deal for them.

The sad story is laid out in “Government Abuse: Fraud, Waste, And Incompetence In Awarding Contracts In The United States” ($54.95 in hardcover from Transaction Publishers; also for Amazon Kindle). In 11 chapters Curry focuses on contracting-gone-bad (think of Hurricane Katrina); one chapter is entitled “Government of the Corporations, by the Unions, and for the Special Interests.”

Yet the book is not to be taken as a breezy denunciation of government corruption; rather, it is a careful, technical analysis of the flaws in the contracting process, especially relating to the Department of Defense (DOD), and, more importantly, how that process could be fixed. In the midst of all the outrageous examples of FIWA (“fraud, incompetence, waste and abuse”) Curry shows it doesn’t have to be this way.

He singles out two contractor selection rules used by DOD and other agencies as problematic. One is the “prohibition against using numerical scoring to rate contractor proposals.” The other “requires government agencies to assign the relative importance of factor and subfactors used in the evaluation of contractor proposals ….”

If two contractors are color-coded “good,” not scored numerically (say, from 70-100), the award may go to the one that makes the most campaign contributions. And if factors such as timeliness and quality of service are merely relative, that leaves it open for the unscrupulous to “adjust” factor weights to favor a certain contractor. If factors are given numerical weights ahead of time, the process is transparent.

Curry singles out the good work of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), that, while not perfect, has sustained numerous protests from losing contractors. Many of these issues could be resolved using a scoring formula yielding a single number.

May this book be widely read in high places.

No comments: