Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 3)

Posted on April 10, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

7th in the series The Manipulators

Life’s Prime Directive:  Every living thing shall attempt to manipulate events, circumstances, behaviors, and social structures to favor its own narrow interests in the struggle to exist.  The only judgment that LIFE places on living entities is the failure to keep existing.  (Okay, it has been said before more bluntlyIt’s all about survival of the strongest.)

Your words for the day: 

  • unbelievable = possessing the property of being too incredulous to be believed
  • red herring = a literary device designed to throw the reader off the trail of plot progression; a diversion or decoy
  • math = the science of using mathematics to figure things out; numeric logic

Clarification of my objective:  These articles, from my slant, paint a negative picture of a specific local government and a specific writer and his media venue.  I hold no personal animosity toward those entities.  However, I do have an animosity toward skewed logic and claims that have the objective to actively bend my personal views (and those of the general public) to enhance the standings of others as they hide their own inadequacies or seek to garner awards and salary increases to further their own life-goals.  You know, using the Prime Directive at my expense.

I am aware that there may be other information “out there” that could render my observations on this Media story as way off the mark.  My focus on THIS journalistic venture of Jack-Hass is limited solely to the information that has been provided within the article and the apparent reason it has been presented in such a caustic vein toward private business.  My presentation is to show that Media seeks to MAKE public opinion, not to simply apprise the public of current events, and, that journalistic endeavors are often based on the ignorance of both the public and the paid story-tellers.

O-kay!  I feel so much more morally superior, now.  Let’s get on with my Media bashing.

Jack-Hass is just a writer.  He has been trained to “drop names” and high-sounding titles into his articles to enhance the importance of his words.  My!  Oh, my, has he dropped a bunch into this story to lend it a semblance of credibility:  City Auditor, City Controller, Mayor, and several other non-associated Government Entities.  They are invoked as though they are the benchmarks of irreproachable accuracy, and yet, political malfeasance is another staple of Media hot-button focus.

While not necessarily “malfeasance,” incompetence certainly seems to apply.  If lapses in bureaucratic protocol were occasional, that is certainly understandable.  We are all human, and, we often lose our focus.  That is why business has so many built-in backup steps (per my previous posting, specifically purchase orders and invoicing).  But, I am totally blown away by the magnitude of this bureaucratic gaff, and the joint journalistic-bureaucratic glossing that seeks to paint the vendor as the bad guy.

Can you believe…

  • 300,000 instances of poorly documented transfers of private product and TAXPAYER MONEY — under a single contract?
  • That a City Auditor would wait 4 years before auditing a major supplier ($75,000 or so per week) against the city’s accounting protocols?
  • That such interest in the accounting protocols only took place after the Auditor heard that other Government Entities were fairly successful in getting retroactive rebates from the same supplier?
  • That an auditor could not determine whether the alleged overcharges were on the order $1.7 million or $6.5 million, and simply summarized, without corroborating documents, that “the city is owed a lot of money?
  • That a city accounting department would pay out $19.2 million without EVER checking to see if the invoicing was as it thought it should be?

Can you believe that a (reputed) journalist would ignore such bureaucratic mis-steps and opt, instead, to cow-tow to the biased, self-serving slant of the reluctant City Auditor?  (Well, that would be the path of least work…   resistance…   I mean “the path of least resistance”.  Why do investigative work?  Just take what the important-sounding City Auditor said and print it up.)

  • Accounting did not do its job for over 4 years.
  • The City Auditor did not do his job for over 4 years.
  • The City of Houston has been short on cash for years; an inept auditor could enhance his standing by dredging up some hard cash when it occurred to him to do his job.  Hell, he might even get the Controller’s job; after all, the Controller bears final responsibility for the city’s financial accounting — or, in this case, NON-accounting.
  • An inept City Auditor who finally thinks he’s onto something needs to get the spotlight on someone else so that his own shortcomings are not in the limelight.

How absurd can this get?  Let’s do some math.  252 weeks of a contract with 300,000 financial transactions during that time totaling $19.2 millionthat’s the raw data.  The extended data is that the average of each transaction is $64.00 ($19,200,000 divided by 300,000), with 1,190 of them per week (300,000 divided by 252 weeks).  This was business as usual for untold numbers of city employees charged with accountability of TAXPAYER MONEY.

The REALLY ABSURD part?  A series of $64 transactions (over 1,000 of them each week for 252 weeks) that — according to the City Auditor — resulted in $6.6 million of overcharges…   or, maybe it’s only $1.7 million.  I guess it just depends on how you calculate it.

And, just how does the US Communities thing fit into all of this?  My code name for US Communities will be “George.”

Next up:  Myth (Part 4) Let George do it

 

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges to Government (Part 1)

Posted on March 23, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

5th in the series The Manipulators

Your words for the day:

  • The Great Unwashed = another euphemism for the general public; you know, the masses of political philosophy
  • schtick = that act each of us adopts to get through this brief, but trying, thing called life
  • yellow journalism = lurid, outlandish, and inflammatory “reporting”
  • tabloid tactics = see “yellow journalism”

Who hasn’t heard it?  A high-profile vendor OVERCHARGES some government agency.  A contractor (another word for vendor) submits UNAUTHORIZED CHARGES to the Defense Department.  Big business uses federal BAIL OUT MONEY to give millions IN BONUSES to its top executives.

Who hasn’t agreed with the Media that “this is some bad stuff” costing the taxpayers some serious money?  Such information releases are directed at us, The Great Unwashed, by journalists who adopt the persona of experts-in-all-matters-deemed-beneficial to “public awareness.”  The Press ( with the big P) has only the best interest of the public in mind as it strokes those proven hot buttons of public perception and pockets huge gate receipts as we, the public sheep, ante up for our tickets to their carnival sideshow.

I, like everyone else in this Society of The Great Unwashed, can be as gullible as anyone.  Do you purchase every rag sheet, tabloid, gaudy magazine, and newspaper that your gaze falls upon?  Or, do you simply note and absorb the blaring headline that, in a few words, engraves an impression into your consciousness?  You realize that analysis of the story line may actually say something different from that headline, but few of us have the will to read and analyze every bit of “news” that inundates us daily.  We are content to remember the “knee-jerk” stimulus and to secretly enjoy the “kick” we derived from it.

The good news is that, although gullible, we of the Great Unwashed are not overly stupid (even though, at any given moment, there are enough of us acting stupidly enough to imply an endemic class trait).  That means that all of us, from time to time, get to peek behind the stage curtain and get a glimpse of The Great and Powerful Oz,* and, by golly, realize that ol’ Oz is really just another one of us –The Great Unwashed — wearing the robes of deception…   ah, journalism…   I mean the robes of journalism.

Our “trusted” news sources are nothing more than fellow gullibles who got a paying job just like the rest of us.  Unlike the rest of us, they also got elevated to a higher plane of credibility, adopting the schtick of expert-in-everything (i.e., journalist).  As such, they drag with them the perception-skewing baggage of media-stressed common-knowledge they acquired when rubbing elbows with all of us lesser beings.  They just fatten up their own biases and make a buck out of it.  And, they call it “news.”

As the title of this article implies, my current axe to grind is the media staple of “big business’s gouging of government agencies for taxpayer money.”  I call it a media-perpetuated myth because of several reasons:

  • It takes two to tango
  • You get what you pay for
  • The paper trail
  • Caveat emptor

To perpetuate this myth and stir the media-purchasing public to…   well…   purchase…   media offerings, those realities are ignored by The Big Pee.  Instead, they go for a morality play wherein they decide who will be the villain and who will be the victim, while presenting themselves as the champion of what is right and good.  Basically, it is just yellow journalism and tabloid tactics to turn a buck…   and win some award, maybe.  But, mostly, it is just to make a buck.

Ignorance on the part of both the public and the writers is what gives this story line its perennial appeal.  The expert-in-everything journalist presents his story from the view of someone in the know, and the public (that be us) — freely confessing its ignorance on the matter — sits at the foot of the master, eagerly tossing coins into his tin cup.

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* The Big P

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Next up:  The Myth (Part 2)  The Office Depot gets skewered

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