The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018
24 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL are set adequately. If a post gets fewer than six bidders for a class of position several years in a row, then that class of position needs an incentive—raise the differential by 5 percent to attract more bidders. If a post gets more than six bidders for a class of position for several years in a row, then it is being overcom- pensated and needs fewer incentives— lower the differential by 5 percent. Let the market handle it, in other words. One-size-fits-all solutions produce just what you’d expect: an ill-fitting suit. Paris usually has plenty of bidders for most positions, but not for junior infor- mation management specialists. Some positions in Moscow, like the deputy chief of mission position, have plenty of bidders, while others are less popular. Why provide the same incentive for all positions? Instead, we need incentives for those groups of positions that historically don’t receive enough bidders. Think of all the Foreign Affairs Manual verbiage that you could cut with such a system. You would no longer need staff to conduct surveys, write justifications and sit on panels. Once again, the proposal could be budget neutral, using an algo- rithm to calculate the existing costs and adjust the post allowance for bidders to balance out increases and decreases. The aggregate cost to the department would be the same, but it would be distrib- uted in a way that advances our staffing policy. Bidders should be grandfathered into the post allowance they bid on; chang- ing the price after they bid would destroy trust and wouldn’t help the market work. Once a price is established in the form of the differential and allowance package, you’ll have a contract in place to provide a service (tour of duty) at that price. Could this cover all allowances? No. It would not be practical for COLA or natural disasters, for example. But it could cover a number of our current allowances better than the existing bureaucratic approach. Rather than concentrating on various characteristics of posts for allow- ances, we instead jump straight to the goal of ensuring an adequate number of bidders by examining the recent bidding history. Materiality: Do More by Doing Less Materiality is an auditing and account- ing concept relating to the significance of an amount, transaction or discrepancy. Have you ever been asked to reimburse $0.80? Or to close a contract with an obli- gation of $5.23 requiring several levels of approval? I have. Is it a worthwhile use of time to ask an employee for the 80 cents, or to ask me to close a contract and get all the approvals for the $5.23 obligation? Surely we need some sort of limits— our systems and procedures should be set to round off and close such problems. Set any small amount—$100, $50—we just need to establish the concept. We can still conduct audits. If there is a pattern of abuse and the sums are material, investigate. If not, don’t waste people’s time. Or take travel vouchers. We currently The EER system seems designed to maximize the time input into the systemwhile minimizing the ability to distinguish between actual candidates.