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Is Transparency Killing Partnership?

Two gatherings last week prompted similar disturbing questions about the current state of relations between government and industry. It wasn’t that long ago when all the major conferences had the word “partnership” in the theme. IAC named its professional development program, The Partners Program. The Clinger Cohen approach to procurement reform rested on the assumption of a trusted partnership.

Nick Wakeman has described in his blog some of the industry concerns that surfaced at a dinner to discuss how relationships between government and industry have changed.

On the same evening, the Government Marketing Forum hosted a panel discussion of how the new ethics rules have changed how companies market to government and how they interact.

One of the themes from both meetings is that there is a great deal of confusion about what kinds of conversations are permitted. Faced with that, government folks either refuse to have meetings or include their legal team. Industry responds by hiring more lawyers and ethics professionals. Large integrators may have up to 80 or more ethics people to vet every request. Both sides ratchet up proof of compliance.

The unintended effect of all the new rules designed to provide transparency and openness has been to shut down conversation. I may be naïve, but I still believe that the more industry understands about what government is trying to accomplish, the better the proposals and outcomes will be.

But underlying all the reporting changes is a more fundamental shift -- a loss of trust on both sides. That will be far more difficult to change. It will take some dynamic leadership and risk takers on both sides to restore.

Posted by Anne Armstrong on Sep 21, 2009 at 7:20 PM


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