Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 6)

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

10th in the series The Manipulators

Today’s proverbYou can’t fight city hall

Your words for the day:

  • scapegoat = one too helpless, often by reason of circumstance, to defend itself
  • witch hunt = the search for a scapegoat
  • not my job, man = the universal escape clause — unstated, but, inherent — in every assignment of responsibility

The Big Pee loves “ongoing coverage” of targeted scapegoats…   sort of a choreographed witch hunt.  Over the centuries, burnings, beheadings, public hangings, and executions by horses-going-off-in-four-directions-while-tethered-to-one’s-various-limbs have really filled the idle time of the masses.  All of that used to be free, but, in the spirit of capitalism, we now have to sit through silly and obnoxious ads from t.v. sponsors, subscribe to an internet service, or buy a newspaper to get our constitutional entitlement to blood and gore.  We are no longer unwitting witnesses to the grand processions of TIME and LIFE (Reality!   …not the magazines); we are now paying customers who are just here for the show.

Public officials are often targeted by The Big P (pronounced “pee”) when it is out to sell papers and such.  For that reason, I am surprised that our featured Jack-Haas missed his shot at Houston’s top executive, Mayor Annise Parker.  Ostensibly, all of the principals involved in those undocumented payouts of $19.2 million of taxpayer money are under her leadership.  And, since elections are only 2 years apart for that office, there has to be some interest by the public or the political opposition in such perception of top-level mismanagement.

Yes, Jack DID mention the mayor, or at least her office.  I paraphrase:  “According to the Mayor’s Press Secretary, that office is doing a separate review to be compared to the one being done by Dangerous Dave; and, the Mayor’s office will be diligent in working to recover any money owed the city, including litigation fees.”  In other words, the Mayor’s office is happy to join in the witch hunt for a cut of the booty.  Like a real Haas, Jack pursued no further, since that announcement from such a high office bolstered his tried-and-true theme, “Government…   victim!   Vendor…   villain!”

So, Mayor…  (Mayor-ess?  Your honor-ess?) Annise Parker, I was just wondering:

  1. Does the city’s accounting department perform a monthly closing of its books like real businesses?  Such as this would catch any variances or deviations at the time of occurrence and get them corrected for future invoicing and payments.  That’s what a real business would do.
  2. Does the city’s accounting department do a quarterly summary of its bookkeeping like real businesses do?  Ditto the benefit.
  3. Does the city’s accounting department do an annual report of all accounting functions detailing variances between documentation and money spent…   as real businesses do? 
  4. Real businesses have an outside auditor come in and verify their figures and on-going accounting practices — ANNUALLY.  Is Dangerous Dave, the self-serving bureaucrat who apparently gets motivated only once every 4 or 5 years, all you’ve got to rely on?
  5. Does the term “reconciling accounts” mean anything to the city’s bookkeepers and accountants?
  6. Does the city provide free coffee and donuts to all of its gold-bricking employees, who are being paid by the taxpayers to loiter?
  7. Are there any plans to have each city office submit requisitions for supplies to a central office where they are consolidated into a single order for maximum discount AND CONTROL?
  8. Are there any plans to have those who receive the materials actually document its receipt and identify it with the appropriate accounting numbers so it can be referenced when balancing the books…   and be available at the end of the year (or every 4 or 5 years) for Dangerous Dave the Auditor to review and criticize?
  9. The State of Texas has 266,874 square miles while the City of Houston has only 627 square miles.  With its thousands of offices statewide, Texas could easily run up 300,000 purchase transaction over a span of 4 years and 10 months (that of the Office Depot contract).  It is inconceivable that a piddling little 627 square mile bailiwick could rack up 1,100 purchases EVERY WEEK for 4-plus YEARS for miscellaneous office expendables (Dave’s figures, not mine) while taxpayer-subsidized supervisors notice absolutely nothing amiss.
  10. City employees have abused the spirit of the US Communities co-op purchasing contract by run-a-way impulse-ordering.  Will you be criticizing or rebuking those city employees who, instead of sharpening that dull pencil, opt instead to pick up the phone and order 1 box of mechanical pencils for ASAP delivery one thousand times a week?

Anyway, the journalistic Jack-Haas of the Houston Chronicle story missed all that stuff I have cited.  Why?  ‘cawz it was easier for him to meet his column quota by copying everything the important-sounding City Auditor told him and presenting all of that to a pre-conditioned, anti big-business, audience.  Taking the time to actually verify the basis of the “official” allegations would have been…   WORK.

And the General Public, that massive brain-dead jury pool so loved by litigators, receives its daily dose of anesthetics to numb that vaunted hallmark of humanity — those pesky reasoning abilities.

Next up:  A break from “The Manipulators”

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 5)

Posted on May 8, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

9th in the series The Manipulators

Today’s proverb Alas, GEORGE DIDN’T DO IT!

Your words for the day:

  • scapegoat = one too helpless to defend itself, often by reason of circumstance
  • witch hunt = the search for a scapegoat
  • not my job, man = the universal escape clause — unstated, but, inherent — in every assignment of responsibility
  • consolidation = getting your shi…   uh, shituff…   your shtuff… getting your shtuff together for maximum personal benefit

US Communities (see previous post) DOES NOT consolidate orders for the signed-up members to the contract.  US Communities DOES NOT verify shipments from the vendor to the buyer at the receiving dock;  US Communities DOES NOT check the invoices against the receiving documents before the buyer pays them.

Per US Communities, they do complete regular 3rd party audits to “guarantee” adherence to that so-called contract, but…

  • IF THAT IS SO, how does one explain that 4-year gap gleefully filled by the City Auditor in seeking (job-enhancing?) retro-active rebates for his employer, the City of Houston?
  • And, IF THEY DID, then US Communities was satisfied that Office Depot was in compliance, which means that Dangerous Dave the City Auditor, is off-base with his assertions.

This is what happens when you expect George to do it:

  • You get that “self-promoted” extra cook hanging out in the kitchen pretending to “adjust” the existing recipes;
  • You get a vendor diligently watching his discount principle; delivery cost for a $64.00 order is the same as that for a $640.00 order.  That vendor will not be receptive to discounts — 300,000 times — for $64.00 orders.
  • You get a department full of watchdogs (a.k.a., bureaucrats) going on a full-time coffee break because they are quite content to LET GEORGE (the pretend cook hanging out in the fully staffed kitchen) DO IT.
  • You get department heads thinking they’ve bought a cure-all for government over-spending (without expending the effort they are being paid to expend) and underlings who think they’ve been given a garlic wreath to prevent ACTUAL WORK from sucking all the fun out of a bureaucrat’s vacation time — you know, that 9-5 daily time frame for which they are being paid TAXPAYER MONEY.

In reality, all that the bureaucrats have procured is a giant container of Dr. Feel Good’s Industrial Strength Cure All — snake oil in a much simpler time.

“Let George Do It”  is a very bad business practice.  But, apparently quite compatible with guv’mint ops, an undertaking that should be run like a business; however, it is handicapped by being staffed with politicians and toady bureaucrats.

I am totally perplexed.  When I was buying expendables for my employer, the greater the quantity I purchased, the cheaper the unit price per item became.  You buy one, you pay $5.00 per item; you buy a dozen, you pay $4.50 each; you buy a gross, you pay $3.00 per item.  I guess that is what they mean by “volume discount.”  Surely, an organization as pervasive as government with staff layered upon staff of taxpayer-paid professionals, with a hundred departments ordering the same items on a recurring basis, would have at least one manager who would understand the term “consolidation” and the financial benefits that result from it.

EVERY VENDOR GIVES VOLUME DISCOUNTS BY THE ORDER.  Every sizeable government entity can, by monitoring their expenses and their department requisitions, get those standard discounts by consolidating all of those individual departmental requisitions into one order per cycle.  No useless “third cook” (such as US Communities — a self-promoted, useless appendix to the body politic) needed in the kitchen.  All that the government entity needs to do is ensure that department heads, whether elected or hired, and their toady bureaucrats do the jobs they are being PAID to do.  Did I mention that they are being paid with TAXPAYER MONEY?

EVERY VENDOR HAS A ROCK BOTTOM PRICE AT WHICH HE CAN SELL.  Every order reflects the vendor’s cost of product, transportation cost, and storage and handling costs.  More product handled per shipment means lower overhead costs for each item shipped; this becomes the basis for price discounts on increasingly larger orders.  The fewer items shipped per order, the higher the price per item.  Office Depot (and any other vendor) would lose its financial ass if it adhered to a “best price” discount for 300,000 $64.00 orders.

The hazard for signers in this “co-op” agreement is complacency.  Office Depot, quite unlike the City of Houston, did not become complacent, and adhered to sound business principles even though the City of Houston tried to bury them under an unbelievable landslide of over 1,000 little bitty orders every week of their contract.

Dangerous Dave alluded to “several” price lists and stated that prices were moved from one list to another to give Office Depot a higher price per item.  Dave was almost certainly referring to the various volume discounts offered with rate schedules based on the amount of each purchase.  Apparently, all those coffee-breaking bureaucrats thought they could pick up the phone between donuts and order one package of napkins for lip-dabbing and get the same price break as if they had ordered 1,000 packages.  It takes a lot more than one package of napkins to pay delivery costs.

Looked at from the full term of the contract, if Office Depot had shipped the same amount of product in only 100,000 shipments, the City of Houston most certainly would have reaped the benefits of volume discounts and would have paid less than the $19.2 million — say, 1.7-6.6  million dollars less.  All the City of Houston had to do was have a central office (e.g., a non coffee-breaking manager) to consolidate all those rampant departmental orders into a SINGLE order once a week (or monthly).  This would automatically have given the city the best price for the product ordered, AND the Office Depot would have reduced its overhead outlay for delivery services.  Win-win, right?

Wouldn’t hurt, either, for the accounting department to verify that all items on the monthly invoice was actually received and that the price listed was the agreed upon price.   I’m just saying

Next up:  Myth (Part 6) Dear Mayor…  Mayoress?…   may I just call you Annise?…

 

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