Do-it-our­selves

Trillions - - Table Of Contents - By NAPC CEO, Tim Lon­car­ich

The $500-bil­lion do-it-our­selves stim­u­lus pro­gram

What if we could put $500 bil­lion back into the Amer­i­can econ­omy each year, cre­ate bet­ter jobs, re­duce cor­rup­tion and im­prove the demo­cratic process?

What if we the peo­ple could re­gain con­trol over our gov­ern­ment and re­store gov­ern­ment to its right­ful place as the ser­vant of the peo­ple?

Wouldn’t that be a worth­while en­deavor? Wouldn’t that make us feel good at a time when we are faced with an in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing fu­ture?

The Prob­lem

Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment agen­cies spend well over $2 tril­lion dol­lars a year pur­chas­ing goods and ser­vices from busi­nesses. I have been closely track­ing that spend­ing for the past 15 years. Based on my ob­ser­va­tions and data, at least 25% of that money is wasted, stolen or oth­er­wise not spent in the best in­ter­ests of the peo­ple. That means that at least $500 bil­lion could be saved if gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment was im­proved.

One glar­ing ex­am­ple of money be­ing mis­spent is the Health­care.gov web­site. So far it has cost Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers more than $2 bil­lion. In re­al­ity, the ac­tual soft­ware cod­ing should have cost no more than $20 mil­lion and an­other $10 mil­lion spent each year for servers, host­ing, band­with and file stor­age.

I am a soft­ware de­signer and man­age teams of pro­gram­mers de­vel­op­ing much more so­phis­ti­cated soft­ware than health­care.gov. I know how much it re­ally costs to de­velop and op­er­ate web­sites han­dling large amounts of data. Other ex­perts have made sim­i­lar ob­ser­va­tions. Where did the money re­ally go, and why isn’t some­one in­ves­ti­gat­ing?

An­other good ex­am­ple of how our money is stolen is the case of Chicago Public Schools and its for­mer head, Bar­bara Byrd-ben­nett. Bar­bara steered $23 mil­lion in no-bid con­tracts for ser­vices not needed to a for­mer em­ployer in ex­change for kick­backs and other ben­e­fits. She pled guilty but is un­likely to see any sig­nif­i­cant jail time. Closer mon­i­tor­ing and public over­sight of Chicago Public Schools could have saved vast sums of money.

And then there is the U.S. Dept. of De­fense and the nearly $10 TRIL­LION that it says it can’t ac­count for.

De­spite the fact that all fed­eral agen­cies must be au­dited and ac­count for the tax dol­lars they re­ceive, the DOD has failed to com­ply with these re­quire­ments since at least 1996.

DOD em­ploy­ees have ad­mit­ted to just mak­ing up num­bers and en­ter­ing them into ac­count­ing pro­grams. Re­peated Con­gres­sional ac­tion has had no im­pact. While much of the money was per­haps spent pru­dently and can’t be ac­counted for due to in­com­pe­tence, the amount of con­tract fraud and out­right theft of tax dol­lars through the U.S. mil­i­tary is mind-bog­gling.

Widely re­ported on was the nat­u­ral gas sta­tion in Afghanista­n that should have cost $500k yet cost tax­pay­ers $43 mil­lion. The mil­i­tary re­fuses to dis­close what the money was ac­tu­ally spent on.

“It’s an out­ra­geous waste of money that raises sus­pi­cions that there is some­thing more there than just stu­pid­ity,” said John Sopko, the Spe­cial In­spec­tor Gen­eral for Afghanista­n Re­con­struc­tion. “There may be fraud. There may be cor­rup­tion. But I can­not cur­rently find out more about this be­cause of the lack of co­op­er­a­tion.”

Im­proper pro­cure­ment prac­tices means that money is taken from the peo­ple, con­cen­trated into fewer and fewer hands and is not cir­cu­lated into the econ­omy. It means higher taxes, mas­sive debt, lower wages, fewer jobs, more crime, lower-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and a de­cayed in­fra­struc­ture. It also means less democ­racy and an in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful and abu­sive state.

We are al­ready past the point where the U.S. can no longer be con­sid­ered a democ­racy and is more ac­cu­rately la­beled an oli­garchy at the fed­eral and some state lev­els.

Amer­ica’s mid­dle class has been shrink­ing rapidly, and the poor have been get­ting poorer. More Amer­i­can chil­dren now live in poverty than in Ro­ma­nia. The U.S. is now near the level of Mex­ico when it comes to child poverty. At the same time, the rich are get­ting vastly richer and many of them are us­ing their money to fur­ther dis­em­power us.

Our own ap­a­thy is the root cause of this prob­lem. We were given a great coun­try by our found­ing fa­thers, but gen­er­a­tions of ne­glect by cit­i­zens have brought us to where we are now. But it doesn’t have to con­tinue to be this way. It doesn’t have to get pro­gres­sively worse.

The So­lu­tion

Ev­ery democ­racy must have com­plete trans­parency and over­sight of the gov­ern­ment pur­chas­ing process.

Trans­parency and ef­fec­tive over­sight by the peo­ple greatly re­duce cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence.

Public over­sight im­proves ef­fi­ciency and re­duces waste. This low­ers taxes and im­proves the qual­ity of gov­ern­ment ser­vices.

Switch­ing on the light of public scru­tiny forces the cock­roaches to scurry back into the shad­ows or get squished.

To help turn on the light, we have cre­ated Amer­ica’s first na­tional pro­cure­ment por­tal with the bid ad­ver­tise­ments of al­most ev­ery gov­ern­ment agency, along with por­tals for ev­ery state.

Pre­vi­ously, if an Amer­i­can wanted to know how their tax dol­lars were be­ing spent, they would have to pay for nu­mer­ous ex­pen­sive and pri­vate bid lead ser­vices and they couldn’t share the data with any­one else.

The state por­tals have a page for ev­ery agency which we have re­cent data from. One can sim­ply look up their county and then look to see if we al­ready have the data for their lo­cal agen­cies.

We have given own­er­ship of these por­tals to the peo­ple. And all of this was done at zero cost to tax­pay­ers.

Each day, we pub­lish the pro­cure­ment so­lic­i­ta­tions of most gov­ern­ment agen­cies in the U.S. and Canada so that the peo­ple can eas­ily see what their public ser­vants are spend­ing money on. This is a great start, but much more is needed.

We need to also post the bids and ac­tual con­tracts.

We need more busi­nesses us­ing the sites and pro­vid­ing goods and ser­vices to gov­ern­ment agen­cies at com­pet­i­tive prices.

We need more peo­ple and com­pa­nies post­ing their own so­lic­i­ta­tions for goods and ser­vices.

We need the public to know about the sites and to start get­ting in­volved in polic­ing agen­cies.

More agen­cies need to post their own data so that we don’t have to chase it down and en­ter it. We of­fer a free and easy-to-use e-pro­cure­ment so­lu­tion for any ageny or pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Now is the time for ev­ery Amer­i­can to step up and ful­fill their obli­ga­tions as a cit­i­zen. To­gether we can make gov­ern­ment bet­ter. One place to start is pro­cure­ment.

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