I Learned a New Word Today

I have talked about timeliness in submission before, but when I came across a case in the Court of Federal Claims about “spoliation” I had no idea I was headed in the same path.  I was baffled by this new word.  Since the article was coming from our own content, it confused me even more.  Our editors are great and I couldn’t imagine why they would have mixed up the word spoilage with a seemingly made-up one like “spoliation.”  Now, I consider myself to have a pretty good handle on the English language – even including some jargon, tech-talk, and I dabble in spanglish.  I proceeded to read the article and came up with nothing.  No clues to what this word could be and how they could have used it no less than 3 times in the article in place of spoilage (wow was I wrong).  Google to the rescue!

The first link in so many single-world searches always ends up at Wikipedia.  Although I tell my students in my accounting classes to never use it as a formal reference, I break that rule here:

The spoliation of evidence is the intentional or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding.

Merriam-Webster online came next:

Definition of SPOLIATION

1.  a : the act of plundering
 b : the state of having been plundered especially in war
2.  : the act of injuring especially beyond reclaim

Origin of SPOLIATIONMiddle English, from Anglo-French spoliacion, Latinspoliation-, spoliatio, from spoliare to plunder.  First Known Use: 15th century

At least now I could try to decipher what I was reading.  My first thought was “why didn’t they just say so?!”  As I re-read the article with a more educated mindset, I figured out that the main problem in Laboratory Corp. of America v. United States was timeliness.  The RFP indicated eBuy would be used and that the due date was 2:00 Central Time.  The eBuy site listed the due date as 2:00 Eastern Time.  Laboratory Corp tried to issue their proposal at 1:03 Central Time and the site did not allow them to do so (That would be 2:03 Eastern Time if you aren’t keeping track).

From there the problem worsens.  As of the cut-off date and time, the website “dumps” the page and it is not reproducible.  This is where the spoliation of evidence comes in to play.  This is also where I decide that I spent too much time reading the case – I will leave the rest to you if you so choose.

My fundamental problem with these timeliness issues is they shouldn’t matter!  It always got under my skin a little when our proposal team at a former employer was driving downtown and just barely getting through the door to submit something that should have been called “done” the day before.  This is where the process needs to take some of this stress off.  With the right process and the correct amount of foresight – this should be an exception, not the rule.  It may have been so in this case, but I have seen it way too many times to believe that this is an occasional occurrence at most contractors.

See also:  

Wolters Kluwer Garrett e-Series for some practical guidance on these items.

www.iso.org for QMS guidance on how to keep this from happening over and over.

About Marty Herbert

With 13 years of government contract administration, analysis, finance, and audit experience, I have established a firm baseline in ethics and a specialization in government contracts that has prepared me to become a subject matter expert in my field. I am currently working on enhancing government contracts management and compliance through workflow tools and product offerings - attempting to make the process proactive as opposed to reactive.
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