If you are anything like me, a good anecdote can really get you thinking. It is to this end that I present the following post and another to follow (potentially after the first of the year).
I recently had someone call me part of the “beltway bandits” in a humorous way. I think partly because of my experience in GovCon and partly because of my proximity to the center of it all. I have had my fair share of ethical dilemmas throughout my career in which the true “bandits” wanted me to compromise my integrity in the name of their “integrity and humility.” Two specific experiences come to mind, but let’s start at the beginning.
In the first part of my career (with DCAA), I would arrive at a contractor who had their guard up and was ready to duke it out. I was soon able to tear down that barrier and create a working relationship. As the years progressed, I found that I paid more attention to how they were getting me what I needed rather than were they getting me what I needed. The process slowed down my analytic mind and I watched in horror as reports were created in a system and then recreated in Excel because there were one or two things still missing. I watched as the auditor was always stashed away in some small room out of sight (and seemingly out of mind). Many things that I experienced shaped the way I looked at compliance as I moved out of the government and into the private sector.
Out of the two experiences I had, the one just after DCAA was probably the hardest. I was still in that idealistic world where people are at least trying to do the right thing. So, when I walked through the doors to a government “startup” as the Director of Finance, I was shocked to find that compliance was second (or perhaps even a distant third after profitability) to winning the contract. The company (a small branch of a larger overseas organization) wanted me to do the accounting and finance for the company. No problem. What they hadn’t asked, but I couldn’t ignore, was for me to keep tabs on compliance and regulation. It started with the financial capability review that I did internally (and was fortunate enough to be able to resolve with the parent company). The breaking point was the first proposal submission I was made a part of.
The president brought in the pricing that he had masterfully put together and asked that I take a look. I was OK with the pricing and escalation and such, but when I began to look at some of the costs there was one in particular that really struck me. We were to be manufacturing something for the government. All the costs associated with the manufacturing were enormous. The problem was the 5 people working for the company at the time would not have even known how to flip the switch on the machinery (assuming there were machinery to turn on in the first place). We were very clearly stating that we could (as of 3 months from submission) manufacture the needed system completely in the United States. This was significant since the contract would be governed by ITAR rules.
Sorry – I am not about to sign any piece of a proposal making false claims to the government. I hear that federal prison is pretty “cushy” but really had no desire to see the inside of one. Three weeks and one much-needed vacation later, I was an internal auditor at a much larger company.
…TO BE CONTINUED