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Procurement Perspectives: Playing within the rules of procurement and life

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Playing within the rules of procurement and life

As they say, life is not a game, but no one likes a cheat nevertheless.  

Procurement rules, policy and procedure needs to be followed by everyone in an organization as well as government to be successful. If you don’t agree with the policy, it is required to get it changed through the proper channels to be compliant. 

A key element of integrity is staying within the rules of the game. It is one thing to play tenaciously, it is quite another to cheat.  

Most major procurement issues that result in litigation are because at some point decisions were made that fell outside of the government or the private sector rule book. 

Over the long haul, staying within the rules advances the chance of success. Paul “Bear” Bryant, one of the most successful U.S college football coaches ever, explained this point clearly: 

“In defence, I asked my boys to hit them as long as they could see them, to gang tackle, to get up and hit them again – but it better be legal. Any player that ever played for us will tell you what the first rule in the book is. I will not tolerate a guy who gives penalties, because he can’t win. Three penalties in a game will beat you. Two will beat you if it is a close game; if it is real close, one will beat you. Giving penalties will never win you any game.” 

These concerns are not exclusive to a football coach. A person caught cheating will inevitably be penalized and very often the penalty is sufficient to frustrate any hope of eventual success.  

As most of us are watching the NHL playoffs, we now know that the Montreal Canadiens will advance to the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993. As an example, in hockey, one penalty can be the difference between playing in the big game or going golfing. 

As we have seen in the newspapers, sometimes the downside of cheating related to the RFP process catches the public eye and becomes so manifest that it can no longer be ignored.  

Foolish people are oddly enough sometimes pleased to have a cheat on their own team because they hope that the skills of the cheat can be used by the organization against its competitors, suppliers and customers.  

However, any organization that employs a cheat must ask itself why it believes the cheat will refrain from preying on the organization as well. All too often banks, investment houses and similar institutions awake to find that the person whom they hired to generate extraordinary profits has in fact mislead both the clients and the organization they work for. 

What is difficult to understand in such cases is why these institutions are surprised that this has happened. A person that is willing to be dishonest once will almost certainly be prepared to be dishonest twice.  

Why should such a person exclude his or her employer from the list of victims? 

The maintenance of integrity goes well beyond avoiding criminality.  

The leadership of every company or government agency must familiarize himself or herself with all the rules of law and conventions that govern the organization and the exercise of their authority to the point everyone acquires an inherent understanding of the applicable rules.  

Only in that way is it possible to deal effectively with the problems that face the organization, while remaining within the limits of acceptable conduct.  

History abounds with examples of even great leaders who undermine their own authority by attempting to overstep the conventions governing the use of that authority.  

The sources of authority include both bureaucracy and tradition.  

Both of these sources depend upon maintaining the integrity of the organization. Where anyone in a leadership role violates the rules of an organization, they compromise part of the foundation of their own authority.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at swbauld@purchasingci.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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