By Steve Kelman

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The Lectern: POGO hits a new low

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) a while ago made a Freedom of Information Act request to OMB for "(a)ll documents pertaining to the SHINE project being conducted by Mr. Denett [the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator] and/or the Office of Federal Procurement Policy."


SHINE has been an effort led by Paul Denett to recognize examples of outstanding performance by contracting professionals that have produced value for taxpayers and for agency missions -- something like what the Partnership for Public Service does for government in general in its wonderful SAMMIE (Service to America medal) annual award. Normal human beings would, I think, find it a cause for joy that we are taking the time to celebrate and recognize excellence, particularly given that career public servants get so few kudos for what they do.


This is not POGO's view, however. In explaining why they made this FOIA request, POGO stated that "(t)he focus of SHINE is to 'shine the light' on acquisition success stories in order to head off congressional oversight of procurement abuses."


This is the approach of twisted minds. POGO apparently believes that it's not enough that they themselves choose to focus exclusively on real or alleged horror stories, and to spread the message that these stories -- assuming even that they are true as recounted (a huge assumption) -- typify the procurement system. They also begrudge others the occasion to celebrate achievements and accomplishments -- and they begrudge outstanding career folks any recognition for those accomplishments.


Some people have critiqued my own criticism of IGs by saying, in effect, that criticism and problem-finding is the mission of IGs, so we can't or shouldn't expect them to spend time discussing what works well. That's a fair response, though in my view it doesn't justify many elements of the IG ideology (such as the remedies they propose for problems, which virtually always involve more layers of controls and rules). However, POGO is not just saying that its mission is to discuss dirt, but is trying to discourage or impugn people who choose to work on recognizing achievement and excellence.


If we needed more evidence that Washington's fear industry is out of control, this astonishing FOIA request provides it.


(BTW, I found out about this request because OMB informed me that in the same letter POGO had requested "(a)ll communications, including but not limited to e-mails, memoranda, notes, meeting notes or transcripts or other similar correspondence between Mr. Denett or any OFPP employee and Steven Kelman." The results of this fishing expedition must have made really boring reading for whatever POGO staffer was assigned the pile of emails.)


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Posted by Steve Kelman on Nov 01, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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