Chicago: Spending More Than It Has To (and Doing Nothing to Fix the Problem)

Call me a hypocrite -- and you'd be right, at least in this case -- but I do not know anyone else that loves the City of Chicago almost as much as hating government waste and corruption. Upon his retirement as the FBI's former Chicago Bureau Chief, Thomas Kneir remarked that he "never ceases to be amazed at the level of corruption in this city." Chicago has been home to procurement scandal after procurement scandal going back as far as my parents' generation can remember. According to the Chicago Sun Times, procurement corruption is not just rampant -- it's sanctioned all the way up. During the corruption trial of Mayor Richard Daley's former patronage chief, "Excerpts of a list of more than 5,000 names that was never supposed to see the light of day were projected on a large overhead screen in federal court ... The 60-page list gives the most detailed snapshot yet of politicians, powerbrokers and mayoral friends vying for city jobs or promotions for their families, friends and supporters ... Prosecutors contend it was part of a corrupt scheme to rig the city-hiring process to award city jobs and promotions to people doing political work for Daley."

But it gets worse from a Spend Management perspective. It turns out saving money and improving the quality and performance of suppliers is not the top goal of procurement practitioners in my dear City, even today. Awarding business to minority contractors is. Now, we can debate the merits of diversity sourcing until every last spot at Harvard is filled with minorities who test below the norm or with legacy students who don't stack up academically, but to make minority contracting the top priority in a city facing a budget crisis is absolutely absurd from a Spend Management perspective. Second or third, maybe. But first? According to Crains Chicago, Chicago's new CPO -- who was just announced last week -- "will be responsible for boosting participation among black-owned businesses and identifying legitimate minority-owned firms ... [he] will also be in charge of developing a simpler and more efficient certification process for the Women and Minority Business Enterprise program to increase participation." Not once in the article does it mention a focus on reducing costs or enhancing supplier performance. So much for priorities, I tell you! Perhaps "The City that works" should change its namesake to "The City that overpays."

- Jason Busch

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