WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Sometimes misperceptions hurt

The old line, "I'm from the government; I'm here to help," might be undergoing a re-write to "I'm a government contractor; I'm here to help."

A new survey by the marketing firm O'Keeffe & Co. for its client Primavera Systems, shows that the general public has a low opinion of government contractors.

According to a survey of 677 people, 92 percent said they don't think the government gets best value from its contractors. They didn't ask about used car salesmen, but it is hard to imagine that they would score worse.

Respondents also gave poor grades to government managers. The entire report can be found here on Primavera's Web site.

An argument could probably be made that the people taking the survey don't understand the workings of government, but I think that is part of the point. The survey respondents said they want more visibility in how the government hires contractors (59 percent); federal managers should provide clear and consistent goals and milestones to contractors (51 percent); and contractors should clearly report on the progress of programs (58 percent).

Sixty percent said contractors should be held accountable and 53 percent said they should be penalized when programs don't deliver.

The message is clear that the public wants to know how and why the government operates the way it does.

Primavera and O'Keeffe also surveyed government managers ? 80 percent said their management systems meet or exceed basic requirements. But in the general public survey, 89 percent received a grade of C or lower for management efficiency.

There is a discontent going on here. I don't think contractors and government managers are as bad as the general public thinks. I also don't think the managers are as good as they think.

The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 07, 2007 at 7:22 PM


Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 13, 2007 Nick Wakeman VA

Thanks for the comment. Well stated.

Thu, Nov 8, 2007 Steve Williams VA

At the risk of re-hashing the litany of ills here, let's not forget that vendors hire ex-govies because they know the environment and know the people so the "solution" is better matched. SO the performance should be about the same - but wait! The Government wants it cheaper. So send in the inexperienced fresh faces, managed by profit-motivated, numbers focused vendors. Oh-oh! The Government is "clarifying" the requirements - now what to do? Just say Yes! and sort it out later - in the media and in front of Congress. In the end, Congress blusters; the agency waits for the improvement (of course, trhe savings have already been deleted from the budget); and the vendor stands to lose money. Is it a wonder the Public is confused? or are they?

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