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As part of our experiment in transparency...

Earlier this week, I mentioned the WP's story about US-VISIT , which included this item.

Accenture also raised its profile by hiring former government officials who had personal or professional ties to US-VISIT managers. One of the people Accenture hired as a lobbyist and consultant was Steve Kelman. As chief of procurement policy for the Clinton administration, he helped create rules that eased the outsourcing of government work to private companies. Kelman had worked closely on that project with Williams, who was then at the Internal Revenue Service.

In his role as a consultant, Kelman helped Accenture draft a document urging Williams's US-VISIT team to give contractors great latitude in designing the system and to limit the number of bid competitors to "2 or 3" as a way to speed the process of choosing a victor. Kelman said his advice focused on linking the winning bidder's pay to its performance.

First off, Kelman, widely seen as the architect of procurement reform, is also a FCW columnist. I would be interested in what people think of this passage in particular. I have known Kelman for years and he has been pretty consistent in his positions over the years. And, agree or disagree with Kelman, he has been focused on improving government.

But those graphs in the WP spurred this e-mail.

FYI, if you dig into today's [Monday's] front page WP story about US-VISIT and DHS procurement management, buried well down in the text are a couple of paragraphs mentioning the fact that Steve Kelman was a paid lobbyist for Accenture. He advised Accenture on their US-VISIT bid.

I don't mean to be telling you your business, but shouldn't Mr. Kelman be disclosing his lobbying ties if he is offering opinions about procurement policy as an op-ed columnist in FCW and other publications?

My initial take was that this is over the top -- do we need to list every organization that somebody has worked for or with each time they do a piece? And Kelman has been very careful in highlighting such instances when there is even the possibility of a conflict. In fact, in a recent column, we wrongly edited out that disclosure and sought to make an attempt to correct it after the fact, which is never as effective as not making the mistake in the first place. That, however, was our error, not his.

Kelman did write a column about US-VISIT, but it was not about the procurement methods. Instead, he was highlighting the changes in how vendors see government contracts and performance. In the case of the US-VISIT contracts, vendors were leasing space and hiring people so they would be ready to go should they win the contract. In fact, that column doesn't mention Accenture and puts Lockheed Martin in pretty good light.

The goal with disclosures is to ensure that readers know where a person is coming from. Our comment pages regularly have contributed pieces from vendors. These are not product pieces, although undoubtedly they do involve people urging some kind of technology. In the 5.26 issue, for example, we have a piece by Bill Cull of FileNet talking about the importance of records and the impending flood of electronic records. Cull's company, FileNet, makes products that can help agencies deal with e-records. Our goal is to have these pieces focus on the larger topic -- to extract their expertise -- without having them be pieces about how wonderful their products are. We get those and we redirect them to our sales people where they can buy an advertisement.

Back to Kelman. To be honest, I'm left in something of a quandry. I don't want to get into a position where everybody has to fill out a disclosure form to have an opinion and express it.

However, does it hurt to add a line saying that he is also a consultant.

My goal is to ensure that people do not feel misled.

I'm not sure what we'll do yet. But feel free to comment... or share your thoughts.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on May 25, 2005 at 12:14 PM


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