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Monday, September 21, 2015

Integrity: Would that it were so simple and straight forward

But, the devil is always in the details.

First, this heart-warming homily, written by an obviously proud Papa.

Integrity in contracting: lessons from a young Princess
In our house of seven children, it seems that almost every day is an “Essay Day.” Last week, when caught in the middle of a lie — about an issue that was not even important —  one of my young Princesses was required to write an essay about INTEGRITY. The Princess did a great job:
Integrity means to be honest when no one is looking. [Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis] If you have integrity you will have more privileges and trust and friends. If you have integrity your friends will trust you because they know you are trustworthy in all things and at all times. . . . If you have integrity, you are honest, trustworthy and you are a good friend to have especially when your friend needs help with an outfit choice.
Ahh, would that it were so simple and straight forward. In the real world of procurement, the notion of Integrity gets wrapped around several axles, only one of which is honesty. It can include duties of loyalty, accountability, transparency and conflict of interest.

Take, for instance, the U.S. Procurement Integrity Act. It consists of four basic obligations:
A ban on disclosing procurement information;
A ban on obtaining procurement information;
A requirement for procurement officers to report employment contacts by or with a competing contractor; and
A 1-year ban for certain personnel on accepting compensation from the contractor.
Indeed, it gets wrapped around multiple issues of the broader topic, ethics. It is also equally applicable to government employees as well as private contractors.

Christopher Yukins is a renowned government contracts professor at The George Washington University Law School. Here is one of his power point presentations, from 2006 to the Interagency Ethics Council.

He first points out examples of the headline-making train wrecks, the obvious failures of procurement integrity. See, the Darleen Druyun/Boeing affair: Long Fall for Pentagon Star and Ex-Boeing CFO Pleads Guilty in Druyun Case; as well as the David Safafrian/Jack Abrhomoff affair: Ex-Aide To Bush Found Guilty; and the scheme that brought down California's former US Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham -- Rep. 'Duke' Cunningham Freed After Bribery Sentence.

He goes on to explore some of the moral hazard associated with the evolution of procurement methods from simple competitive bidder to negotiated contracts via the "best value" proposals, and to the "teed up" if not non-competitively bid task orders, where focus is on faster, more efficient contract letting than fair and fostered competition. Mix in an understaffed and decimated government procurement staff, and outsourcing procurement to private actors, and the ground is tilled for seeds of corruptible influences. He notes it has become a worldwide problem, and requires corrective training and sensitivity at all levels of government -- and industry.

As an example of some of the correctional efforts, Canada, in 2014, has adopted a government-wide Integrity Regime, applicable to both government procurement and real estate transactions.

Federal Government Tightens Procurement Integrity Provisions
With very little publicity or warning, on March 3rd, 2014 Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) announced significant amendments to the Integrity Provisions which are incorporated in all solicitations administered by PWGSC in relation to federal government procurement and real property transactions. The Integrity Provisions impose rigorous certification provisions which, if not complied with, can result in PWGSC deeming a bid to be non-compliant or result in the cancellation of an awarded contract.
 the list of offenses which result in debarment has been expanded;
 in addition to convictions, suppliers must now certify that they (including their affiliates), have not received absolute or conditional discharges in relation to the expanded list of offenses;
 suppliers must now also certify that they (including their affiliates), have not been convicted in other jurisdictions of offenses that have similar elements to the Canadian offenses listed in the Integrity Provisions; and,
 suppliers are required to impose matching integrity commitments on their subcontractors.
Good procurement is the cornerstone of good governance, and both rely on the honesty and goodwill of the government toward the people and of the trust of the people in the government. In that basic message, The Princess nailed it.

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