Federal government procurement has massive overruns: Hashtag Trending, Tuesday February 13, 2024

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Once again, Canadian federal government procurement has massive overruns, a driverless Waymo taxi is attacked by a mob, the CEO of Mozilla steps down in the face of Firefox’s decline to irrelevance…

All this and more on this oh my gawd, I hope this isn’t too preachy edition of Hashtag Trending. I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US.

In a revealing audit, Canada’s Auditor General Karen Hogan has cast a spotlight on the mismanagement surrounding the ArriveCAN app, a digital tool developed to streamline the entry process into Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report uncovers a series of failures by three federal government agencies: Canada Border Services Agency, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Public Services and Procurement Canada, highlighting a disregard for good management practices in the app’s contracting, development, and implementation, which amounted to a staggering $59.5 million expenditure.

The audit paints a picture of a project marred by poor financial record-keeping, making it nearly impossible to ascertain the full cost of the ArriveCAN application. This lack of transparency and accountability has raised significant concerns about the value delivered for the taxpayer dollars spent. The report details how the agencies’ reliance on external resources, beyond the initial crisis of the pandemic, not only inflated costs but also brought into question the overall value achieved for the money spent.

One of the most alarming findings is the “disregard for policies, controls, and transparency” in the contracting process, particularly how the initial ArriveCAN contract was awarded to GC Strategies, an IT staffing company, through a non-competitive process without adequate documentation. This process limited competition opportunities and undermined the value for money, raising concerns about the integrity of the contracting practices.

The audit also highlighted the Canada Border Services Agency’s poor management of contracts, with essential information missing from contracts and routine approval of invoices that lacked detail on the work completed. This lack of diligence and oversight has compromised the accountability for public spending on the ArriveCAN project.

In response to these findings, the Auditor General has made several recommendations, including the need for accurate financial records, full documentation of interactions with potential contractors, and ensuring compliance with contracting policies. The government has acknowledged these “unacceptable gaps in management processes” and has taken steps to improve oversight and procurement practices.

That’s the official line – and none of this will make any difference. Nor will it keep this from happening. Why? Government procurement is broken and it’s time to fix it.

And talking about “transparency” and all those platitudes will not fix a thing. In fact, here’s my prediction – the next round of “improvements” will just make it worse.

I’ve been a procurement consultant for the federal government and it’s a joke. The crazy rules that are in place are not designed to give the best value for the taxpayer, they are part of Kafkaesque bureaucratic bungling that is guaranteed to yield the worst possible results.

When I worked on one major purchasing, we were not allowed to ask questions that might actually find out who knew what they were doing and who didn’t. And there was a “fairness” commissioner representative, that was actually a real paid job, and they were there to make sure we didn’t ask any question that would show who knew their stuff and who didn’t.

I want to emphasize that this is NOT the fault of the individual employees. We have a lot of people on our payroll who come to work every day and work hard to do their job.

The problem is with the leadership and the processes driven by people who have no accountability for the results of their actions.

This has nothing to do with political parties. Steven Harper’s conservatives screwed things up just as royally as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. And the Poilievre’s Conservatives or Jagmeet Singh’s NDP will continue to screw it up. Do not listen to the politicians – they have no idea.

But this is not going to be fixed until someone has the courage to say that this is fundamentally broken and bring in some people who actually understand procurement and technology – and get out of the way while they do their job.

We need accountability for the people who drive the process. They don’t need a mass of bureaucrats and “fairness commissioners” – they need clear objectives, accountability for those, and for the rest of the system to just get out of the way.

Apologies for editorializing but if private companies do this, we can just choose to not buy their products. When the government does it, we have to pay, regardless.

My standing offer to take 5 other CIOs into any area and fix it once and for all still stands if anyone is interested.

Sources include: IT World Canada

In a startling incident in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a Waymo driverless taxi became the target of vandalism that escalated into a full-blown arson attack. The event unfolded around 9 PM PT, starting with an individual jumping onto the vehicle’s hood and smashing its windshield. This act of destruction quickly garnered applause, leading to a crowd forming around the car. The group proceeded to cover the vehicle in spray paint, break its windows, and, in a dramatic finale, set it ablaze. By the time the fire department arrived, the autonomous car was already engulfed in flames.

The motive behind this aggressive act remains unclear, with no reports suggesting why the Waymo car was targeted. Waymo, a leading name in the autonomous vehicle industry, confirmed that the car was operating without any passengers at the time of the attack. The incident was marked by the throwing of fireworks into the car, which ignited the fire. San Francisco Police Department responded to the scene to find the vehicle already in flames, fortunately with no injuries reported.

This incident occurs against a backdrop of growing tension between San Francisco residents and the operators of automated vehicles. Previous incidents involving robotaxis, including a pedestrian being struck and traffic disruptions, have fueled public debate over the safety and regulation of autonomous vehicles in the city. Just last year, city officials and residents expressed strong opposition to granting 24/7 operation licenses to these vehicles, with some going as far as to physically block the cars in protest.

The destruction of the Waymo taxi in Chinatown highlights the broader challenges tech companies face as they integrate their innovations into public spaces. Acts of vandalism and defiance against technology, from scooters thrown into lakes to cars being punched, underscore the friction between technological advancement and public acceptance.

As the investigation into the incident continues, the event serves as a stark reminder of the complexities surrounding the deployment of autonomous vehicles in urban environments. It raises critical questions about safety, regulation, and the societal impacts of rapidly advancing automotive technologies.

Sources include: The Verge and official statements from Waymo and the San Francisco Police Department.

In a move that has stirred the tech community, Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla Corp, has announced her resignation. This decision comes at a time when Firefox, once the darling of the web browser world, continues its descent into what many fear could be obscurity. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, in his opinion piece for The Register, delves into the implications of Baker’s departure and the current state of Mozilla and its flagship product, Firefox.

Firefox’s journey from a pioneering web browser to its current position reflects a broader narrative of change and challenge within the tech industry. In the early 2000s, Firefox was celebrated for its innovation and security, offering a refreshing alternative to Internet Explorer. However, the landscape has dramatically shifted since then, with Firefox’s user base dwindling to a mere 2.2 percent of US government website visitors, as reported by the Digital Analytics Program (DAP).

The decline of Firefox is not a sudden phenomenon but a gradual erosion of market share, primarily to Google’s Chrome, which now dominates the browser space. This shift raises questions about Firefox’s relevance in today’s tech ecosystem and the strategic decisions that have led to its current state. Vaughan-Nichols points out that even Mozilla has recognized the challenge posed by Chrome, with former CEO Chris Beard acknowledging in 2017 that Firefox had failed to keep pace with market demands.

The article also highlights the financial and operational complexities within Mozilla, particularly concerning its funding model. Despite positioning itself as a champion of privacy and the open web, Mozilla’s financial sustainability heavily relies on royalties from Google, a fact that sits uncomfortably with its public mission. Baker’s compensation, amidst declining revenues and Firefox’s shrinking user base, further complicates the narrative around Mozilla’s priorities and management practices.

As Baker steps down, Laura Chambers has been named interim CEO, tasked with refining Mozilla’s vision and doubling down on core products like Firefox. Yet, the future direction of Mozilla and Firefox remains uncertain, with Vaughan-Nichols expressing skepticism about the possibility of a significant turnaround.

Baker’s new role will focus on representing Mozilla in public forums, emphasizing policy, open source, and community engagement. However, the connection between these activities and the revitalization of Firefox is not immediately clear. The overarching challenge for Mozilla is not just about leadership changes but finding a sustainable path forward in an internet landscape that has evolved beyond its early vision.

This episode raises critical questions about the viability of Firefox as a web browser, the strategic direction of Mozilla, and the broader implications for the tech industry’s commitment to open standards and user privacy.

And at the risk of making this edition totally opinionated, I think you only have to look at Perplexity to see how sadly irrelevant Firefox has become. I get the open source piece. I love open source. I get privacy idea. Love it. But for heaven’s sake, let’s learn one lesson if we want to compete – “we’re not the other guys” is not a unique value proposition. Understanding the needs and desires of your customer and trying to fulfil them – that’s where you take market share.

Sources include: The Register

And that’s our show for today.

And I don’t know why or how, but I scan a lot of stories to produce this podcast and on some days, they just seem to have a theme.

If I’m straying far too much into opinion, I’m trusting that you’ll let me know.

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with daily news cast and a weekend interview show that we creatively called – the weekend edition.

We love to hear from you. Send us a note at jlove@itwc.ca or drop us a comment under the show notes at itworldcanada.com/podcasts – look for Hashtag Trending.

Thanks for listening and have a Terrific Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Federal government procurement has massive overruns: Hashtag Trending, Tuesday February 13, 2024 first appeared on IT World Canada.

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