Here’s How the Government Hires a Dishwasher

Some solicitations make the rigorous federal contracting procedures seem silly.

Government acquisitions move at a slow, lumbering pace.

They’re weighed down by special requirements, procedures and regulations that ensure the government doesn’t pay more or less than it ought to and that  competition for contracts stays fair and open.

These rules and procedures can also slow down operations to the point of absurdity, though, and raise the overall cost of a good or service by tacking on extra staff time.

Every once in a while something pops up that makes this dichotomy hyperclear. Recently I’ve been following the saga of the Food and Drug Administration’s regional office in Jamaica, New York, which has revised its solicitation twice now for a part-time dishwasher.

The agency has even published a question-and-answer document clarifying that there is public transportation to the worksite and that no uniform is required but that the government will supply gloves.

This back and forth between the contracting officer and contracting agencies is sure to drive the actual cost of filling the 20-hours-per-week position well above the $14.67 hourly wage plus $3.71 health and welfare described for the job classification and far above what the government would pay to fill the post if it could simply post an ad on Craigslist.

This isn’t to draw any grand conclusions about the value of government contracting procedures. The procedures are there for a reason. Solicitations for minor services like this do point out, however, that fairness and transparency in contracting sometimes come at the detriment of efficiency. 

Correction: This post has been updated to note the soliciation was revised twice not three times.