The Lectern: Silly season hits contract management group
I was surprised and saddened to see a story in this month's issue of Contract Management, the monthly magazine of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), that more than 10 senior contracting officials in the government had declined positions on the NCMA Board of Advisors "upon the 'advice' of counsel or ethics advisors, despite the fact that no regulation specifically prohibits such participation" (and such officials have served on the board of advisors many times in the past).
The reason is that NCMA's Board of Advisors also has contractor representatives on it, although the organization is not even vaguely dominated by contractors; indeed, when I was in the government -- and proudly worked with NCMA -- I saw it more as an organization of government contracting folks than of contractors. Neal Couture, NCMA's executive director, writes, "It is clear that a climate of fear is emerging within the federal workforce."
This development is as absurd as it is deeply saddening. The view that government will get better results from contracting if customer and supplier do not communicate with or understand each other goes against all the evidence that it is poor communication and poor understanding across organizational boundaries that are likely to create problems for creating successful business relationships, not the opposite.
In the intelligence world, we're putting lots of effort into linking stovepipes so we can connect the dots. In today's procurement environment, some seem to value keeping the dots as asunder as possible. Sure, there is a role in the contracting process for auditors, who do need to be independent and separated. But to let the auditor mentality run the business relationship between customer and supplier is a recipe for disaster.
Yet this is the ditch of dysfunctionality into which some are trying to drive us.
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Posted by Steve Kelman on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:09 PM