Search This Blog

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bah! Humbug!

Call me Ebenezer.  So close to Christmas, I'm going on another rant.  And on a topic I've ranted to death, no less.  So if you don't want me to chip away at your holiday mood, maybe you should skip this one.

I'm going back to competitive bidding.  Something I said in my last post on the subject has got me thinking.

[Finding new ideas in my own writing would seem to indicate at least one of the following:
  1. My ability to form complete thoughts leaves something to be desired.
  2. I spend too much time reveling in my own prose.
  3. I'm tossing crap onto this blog before I've thought it through.
  4. My mind moves so fast, even my own mind can't keep up.
  5. My writing is incredibly  thought-provoking.]
Anyway, the statement that got me thinking was, "the main goal of most competitive bidding rules is to prevent cheating, not lower costs."  Let's face it, the FCC rules are not going to prevent cheating for two reasons:
  1. They can't catch cheaters.
  2. They can't punish cheaters.
The FCC can't catch cheaters because they have no subpoena power and very limited audit resources.  Look at all the major cheaters that have been caught.  They've either been caught by district attorneys or school district audits or both.  With its limited investigatory ability, the FCC is only going to catch people who make stupid mistakes.  And competitive bidding rules don't prevent stupid mistakes.  (Improving the tools available to applicants would prevent stupid mistakes, but that's a different rant.)

So when cheaters do get caught, what is the punishment?  Well, the district attorneys dish out huge fines and jail time.  The FCC does 2 things:
  1. Debar individuals for 3 years.
  2. Take back the funding from the applicant.
I've posted before about the irony of giving a 3-year debarment to someone going to jail for 5 years.  I mean, you could file an appeal with the FCC, get debarred, and be back in the E-Rate business before the appeal was decided.  (Actually, the FCC has handed out at least one 10-year debarment, but the only effective debarments would be against service providers, and there the FCC seems to hand out 6-month debarments, if there is any debarment at all.)  So you catch someone cheating and the punishment is that they can't cheat any more for 3 years?

And taking money back from the applicant doesn't hurt the perpetrators.  If the cheaters gave a fig about their employers' well-being, they wouldn't cheat.  (My favorite case is one where a district alerted the FCC to a $5 million fraud by their Tech Director, and now the FCC is after the district for $3 million, even though the district never got any money or equipment.)

Where's the harm?  Well, the restrictions imposed by competitive bidding rules increase the cost of procurement.  Apart from the wasted staff time, the decreased flexibility often prevents applicants from purchasing what would be a more cost-effective solution.

The FCC's toothless competitive bidding rules drive up costs without preventing cheating.

How can we deter cheaters?  In all the cases mentioned, existing laws resulted in prison time.  So let the legal system catch the cheaters.  

So for Xmas this year, I'd like Santa to take the Form 470 back to the North Pole with him.  Then he can stick one in the stockings of bad children.

1 comment:

  1. SP Guy5:27 PM

    ...And without a system from the SLD that allows TRUE anonymous submissions by the service provider community, none of us will ever code-9 an applicant.

    The circle of cheating continues.