Public Spend Forum Content

Best of Public Spend Forum: Jonathan Messinger’s Picks

Closing out "Best Of" Week are the following posts from Public Spend Forum, our sister site focusing on public sector procurement. I asked Jonathan Messinger to pick a few posts from the past six months to showcase, and he did, but not without including a classic from last year. I am speaking of The Seven Most Overused Words in Procurement. Read on to see what the other picks are.

A New Study Argues that Public Procurement Can Alleviate Poverty

While we’ve spend a lot of time looking at how public procurement can achieve a wide variety of social outcomes—everything from greener practices to small business development—one that I hadn’t yet seen is the argument that public buying could help lower poverty numbers. But a new study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation argues just that. What’s of particular interest to me is that the study doesn’t just raise questions about how public procurement can tackle poverty, but in particular social mobility.

The NY Times Investigates the Federal Use of Reverse Auctions and Finds… Savings!

Well, the discussion about the federal government’s use of reverse auctions has likely received more attention in the past few days than ever before. No, it’s not because of some scandal that has emerged regarding manipulation of an auction to favor one bidder over another (never happened!). It’s not because of some report that parts acquired through competitive bidding led to failure of the missile defense system (never happened!). And it’s not because a 15-year-old in Malaysia hacked into a reverse auction acquisition and won a $2 million dollar contract to supply the Pentagon with laptops (never happened!).

Ideas on Improving IT Procurement Reform Bills

Federal IT procurement reform took another step yesterday, when House Democrats Gerry Connolly and Anna Enshoo introduced the Reforming Federal Procurement of Information Technology Act (RFP-IT). Along with the bipartisan Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), the RFP-IT represents more momentum for changing the way the federal government procures and manages large IT programs.

Is There Only One Right Way to Go About IT Procurement Reform?

A couple weeks ago, we noted how two of the most prominent voices calling for IT procurement reform seemed to be at odds. Stan Soloway, head of the Professional Services Council and Department of Better Technology CEO Clay Johnson. Yesterday, NPR’s “All Tech Considered” also ran a piece about the Soloway’s and Johnson’s views, setting them up once again as diametrically opposed. So the debate now seems to be: Is the problem poor project management, or poor competition? And my question becomes: Does one seem oppositional to the other?

Paying Taxes to Support Worker Abuse

Cutthroat global competition—the race to the bottom in labor standards—is at the base of the callousness with which factory owners treat workers, and retailers and major brands treat their contractors. Even as Bangladesh’s industry became notably perilous, the Western importers made that country the second largest volume exporter of garments. Data I have collected over the last decade show why: The average price for imported garments (which is most of the clothing Americans wear) is going down, and Bangladesh is the lowest price source in the world.

US Government Under Fire for Sourcing Apparel from Low-Wage Factories

Every few months a major media outlet will run an exposé on how a major retailer or designer clothing company is sourcing its clothing from a factory abroad. The focus will either be on: a) the low wages being paid to seamstresses and other line workers; b) the poor working conditions at the factory; c) the long hours being put in by the workers; d) the abusive supervisory methods employed at the factory; or e) all of the above (and usually, “e” of course is the correct answer). The only thing that varies is which company is the focus this time—Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren, The Limited, Old Navy, etc. However, a recent New York Times investigative report went after a unique target that has heretofore escaped scrutiny for its apparel buying practices abroad. In fact, the subject was the world’s largest buying organization—the federal government.

Engage All Parties? Leverage? Seven Painfully Overused Words in Procurement

Jonathan Messinger took about 50 procurement white papers, and ungodly amount of text from procurement- and supply-related publications, and fed them through the wringer, to call forth the worst offenders. Now, aside from the data crunching, it did take some sifting. Jonathan mainly looked for the words that get tossed out there when either another word would do, or to disguise a lack of meaning. Stop the corporate-speak. Here are seven overused words.

Debunking the Myths of Reverse Auctions in the Public Sector

Reverse auctions have been big news inside the Beltway and beyond in recent days, mainly due to the release of the recent GAO (Government Accountability Office) report on the subject. As Steve Kelman, a Professor of Public Management at Harvard University‘s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the former Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, recently commented: “You know that a new practice has ‘arrived’ in government when it becomes the subject of its very own GAO report.” The GAO report highlighted that while the four federal agencies they reviewed had achieved significant savings, the government was not maximizing the true power of reverse auctioning due to some issues it uncovered in regards to competitive and regulatory concerns.

American Legion Wrong About Reverse Auctions Being Bad for Small Businesses

This writer must issue a disclaimer at the start of this article, as some people and entities are hard to sit at the keyboard and criticize. How could one write an article taking down the Dalai Lama or Santa Claus (sorry kids!), or criticize organizations such as food banks or child advocacy groups for the work that they do? And so, writing an article criticizing the American Legion is done only with the sober reality that whatever the facts might be, some readers will automatically believe that when an organization whose mission is to help America’s proud veterans of the past and present day, takes a stance against a government practice, the American Legion’s brand—its name and reputation for good works—makes their position above reproach. However, the American Legion was simply wrong in using Congressional testimony this past week to criticize the use of reverse auctions in federal procurement for the alleged harm that the practice has on small business owners and in particular, those which are owned by veterans.

Rounding Out the Top Ten Technology Trends in Public Sector Procurement

Today, I’ll continue with our list of the top ten technology trends, closing with the final five. This list starts with a topic on the minds of many technology workers in government: avoiding another healthcare.gov situation. Our sixth trend to watch is that fallout from the healthcare.gov fiasco will place new emphasis on supplier performance management, specifically tracking the right sets of key performance indicators (KPIs) throughout the procurement and delivery lifecycle of large IT projects.

Not All Federal IT Procurement Is Broken

We mentioned yesterday in our news round-up the launching of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Needipedia, a site that allows tech users within the agency to communicate their needs directly to vendors through Open Broad Agency Announcements. It’s an interesting new venture from DIA, though they clearly lost an opportunity here to name it the much more mellifluous Wikineedia. FedNewsRadio has the full story on their site, but I thought it was worth highlighting a few points about how the new site, launched in October, highlights some of the common problems with not just federal IT acquisition, but federal procurement in general.