Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Government Contracting: Promises And Perils"

In order for the President of the United States to pick up a pen and sign a bill, presumably someone else in government had to sign a procurement order to buy that pen from a private company. What could go wrong?

That's where "Government Contracting: Promises And Perils" ($89.95 in hardcover; also for Amazon Kindle) by William Sims Curry comes in. Now in the second edition, the book is a companion to Curry's "Contracting For Services In State And Local Government Agencies." Together, the books detail not only what can too easily go awry, but provide model documents and procedures to help things go right.

Bill Curry is President of WSC Consulting in Chico; he is a Certified Professional Contracts Manager and, according to an author's note, "served as an Air Force systems procurement officer and was formerly employed in purchasing management for prime contractors on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope … and numerous DOD programs."

"Government Contracting" focuses on the Federal and international levels (especially the UN), but Curry's guidance on creating ethical and transparent processes has wide application. He begins with the "wall of shame," noting the factors that often lead to corruption: abuse of power, greed, incompetence, escort services, slovenly conduct, fraud--the list goes on.

There are many examples throughout the book. Not only was former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich removed from office for trying to sell the "Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama … the wiretap evidence also revealed attempts to obtain contributions to Governor Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for action on government contracts."

Most government workers and contractors are honest, Curry says, but sometimes an agency's loose policies (on gratuities, for example) mean individuals have to adhere to higher personal ethical standards.

"A transparent system," Curry writes, "has clear rules and mechanisms to ensure compliance with those rules (objective evaluation criteria, … equal information to all parties). Records are open, as appropriate, to inspection by auditors…."

Curry's book is intended for working professionals, but lay readers will marvel at the complexities of the government/business interaction (what if the lowest price supplier can't deliver in time?). As a manual for how things (ought to) work, it is indispensable.

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