The political heat is rising on the stimulus package as project details begin to emerge and politicians look to capitalize on any Administration missteps. Yesterday, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. released a report criticizing 100 ‘questionable’ stimulus projects. Examples of these projects include a $1.2 million guardrail for a reservoir in Oklahoma that is basically dry, and a little-used Wisconsin bridge leading to a country club.
In addition, articles and posts such as one appearing on Propublica continue to criticize the level of detail and usability of published stimulus data–particularly as it relates to interpreting what is actually spent versus what is promised.
Expect the pressure to continue to build over the next six months. With a program as large and speedily passed as the stimulus bill, boneheaded projects will exist. And, there will be no shortage of politicians available to lead the criticism parade.
Vendors should look carefully at the projects for which they bid, conducting a cost-benefit analysis that takes into account the full economic and political impact of involvement. Vendors lured by short term projects may find their brand and long-term business damaged irrevocably due to their participation in a clear “pork” initiative.
Also, vendors should be prepared for project cancellations and scope of work changes. Intense scrutiny and political pressure will impact certain projects; and associated vendors could be left holding the bag with little sympathy from their communities.
In all, vendors should be a part of the solution–not the problem. Despite the allure of a fast dollar, government providers should stay the course with a little integrity and transparency of their own.