If you want to be the pro-government party then, by God, when you get your hands on actual New!Money! to spend on an actual problem you have an iunbreakable moral obligation to get it right all the way down to the smallest detail. Or, to quote Ricky Roma, "What you're hired for is to help us. Does that seem clear to you? To help us, not to fuck us up!" Because when you, as a member of the pro-government party, are given such an opportunityand you fuck that up, you hand the bad guys a sword and invite them to impale every single Liberal out here in the cornfields trying to persuade the good people of flyover country that government can be used to help people here's what happens (from Tuesday's State Journal-Register):
Audit slams oversight of Quinn anti-violence programsThree anti-violence programs administered by former Gov. Pat Quinn were so poorly monitored that nearly $4 million was lost to questionable expenses or unspent funds never collected, an audit released Tuesday concluded.The review by Auditor General Frank Mautino included the controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, created by the Democratic governor in 2010 as he was running for election to a full term. Criticism of spending and oversight in news reports and an earlier audit haunted his failed re-election attempt in 2014.The early 2014 audit lambasted the first two years of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, saying money rushed out the door so quickly that authorities had trouble keeping track of it. Mautino's review found that while Quinn responded to early criticism by transferring program administration to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, that agency didn't enforce its own rules....In the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative alone, $2.2 million in unspent money was never recovered. Another program, the Chicago Area Project, had $427,000 of unspent money never recovered.
The audit also questioned the veracity of $1.1 million spent on all three anti-violence programs....
Longtime readers of this blog may remember the "NRI" from several posts I wrote back in 2014 based on my experiences working under temporary contract with one of the outfits that was getting funding under this program. I had prior experience successfully designing and running multi-million dollars programs, so even from my vantage point way down the food chain I could see that this was a massive clusterfuck-in-the-making.
And as has been my experience with very large and insulated bureaucracies since I was but a wee driftglass, no one up in the command center of a Very Bad Idea wants to hear that they are about to run their reputations, good intentions and millions of taxpayer dollars straight into the rocks.
So since this is the only gig where I can say what I want and no one from HR is going to call me 10 minutes later and tell me to clear out my desk, I will indulge myself by re-posting part of what I wrote a few years ago...
...From top to bottom, the problem with the NRI wasn't just that the program was a goddamn mess.It was -- like many an IT project I slogged through back in the days of old -- depressingly clear from a mile away that it was wired to be a goddamn mess from the start. The people at the top appeared to be sincere, but had no idea what they were doing. The cost-controls were zilch. The project plan was "throw a buncha stuff at it and hope it works out". There were dozens of complex moving parts, all on different schedules, all run by different people, none of whom appeared to be talking to each other on a regular basis. Staffing was a nightmare, with everything sub-sub-contracted out as far as possible to spread the money around.And money was the thing.Money and deadlines.Thanks to the the Great Recession, by 2010 social service organizations of all kinds had been decimated by massive, muscle-and-bone cuts to at all levels. and it was into that resource-starved environment that this a brand-new $55M grant arrived.Ermahgerd!New Money!And deadlines. No concise objectives or well-defined outcomes, but lots and lots of deadlines each of which came with severe penalties.So here's a pro tip for you kids out there: When a project combines 1) no clear plan and no overall leader, 2) a high public profile and 3) lots of drop-dead dates...run for the exit as soon as you can plan your escape because
- The thing is doomed. Doooomed I say. And
- As sure as God made John Wesley Dean III, the first thing that will happen after the Big Project fails due to incompetent management is that management will go looking for scapegoats among the rank-and-file. And when that happens, you would do well to remember the wise words of Amarillo Slim: "If you’re at a poker table and you don’t see a sucker, it’s you.”The organization that hired me on as a contract/temp had been hemorrhaging middle-managers for years and so when I arrived they literally had no one else to throw at their portion of this mess, so into the thresher I went as a placeholder until they could hire someone on to take up the task permanently.Unfortunately their internal hiring procedures were so staggeringly complex and awful -- so completely set up to make sure virtually no one ever got hired as a full-timer -- that I ended up getting stuck with the job. And right out of the gate, what was supposed to be a 3-day orientation to get all the dozens (hundreds?) of people who had been (often involuntarily) committed to the enterprise suddenly ballooned into (as I recall) nearly two months of full-time, all-day...stuff.Wheee!Just...stuff. It appeared that the people running the thing had just pulled random proposals and white papers that had been gather dust on their shelves for years and tossed them into a pile and, bingo, that was the program. So for two months we had seminars -- many of them very interesting -- on everything anyone could think of.After which the organization for which I worked lost its portion of grant because, in that intervening two months, no one had managed to win the Human Resources Hunger Games and actually get hired to do the job for which I had been seat-filling. For awhile after that happened it was clear I was being suited up by the company to take the hit for losing them their share of the cursed money from this doomed program, but at this point in my life I know enough to cross every "t", dot every "i", and to document the Hell out of everything.But eventually my contract ran out, and the people who ran the Human Resources Hunger Games explained to me that, despite the fact that everyone I worked at this shop was begging them to hire me (because I happen to be really good at what I do), it was just impossible because, um, er, uh....This was not the first well-intentioned project designed to help genuinely needy people which I have seen ruined because it's planning and execution were handed over to political friends instead of competent professionals.And it probably will not be the last.You want to know how to corrode people's faith in government to the point where they finally throw up their hands and say "Fuck it! Just let the private sector run everything!"?This is how you do it.