Thursday morning, I received a visit from Dr. Evelyn Waugh Tsvangari-O’Shay.  She works at the US State Department Office of the Inspector General.
“I suppose,” she began, “you are familiar with the recent allegations lodged against us?”
“That the Office of the Secretary of State intervened to quash an investigation of an affair between a Wall Street Journal reporter and our ambassador to Iraq?” I asked.
“No,” she responded, “not that.”
“Claims that the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs helped the DEA cover up four murders in Honduras?” I guessed.
“You’re getting colder,” she told me.
“The one about a covert narcotics ring at the US embassy in Baghdad?” I ventured.
“Colder still,” she suggested.
“Allegations that the State Department Regional Security Officer committed sexual assaults in Beirut, Khartoum and Monrovia?” I offered.
“Warmer,” she advised.
“Claims that members of former Secretary Clinton’s security detail hired hookers while on foreign duty?” I gambled.
“Hot,” she encouraged, “very hot.”
“Assertions that the US ambassador to Belgium routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children.” I declared.  “That’s got to be it.”
“Almost,” she nodded.  “You’re red hot.”
“Oh, oh, all right then,” I deduced, “allegations that the State Department OIG tried to cover up assertions that the US ambassador to Belgium routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children.”
“Bingo,” she proclaimed.
“And furthermore,” I elaborated, “additional allegations that the OIG sent State Department agents to the whistle blower’s home and threatened her family.”
“Correct,” she agreed.
“And you’re here because after all that, the whistle blower went to Senator Ted Cruz about what the State Department did while trying to pull off a cover-up,” I hypothesized.
“Exactly,” she confirmed.  “It seems that one of our investigators failed to realize the true mission of any federal government agency’s Inspector General’s Office.”
“Which is,” I duly noted, “to ensure that any mistakes, malfeasance, waste, fraud, abuse, nepotism, unethical conduct or outright criminal acts discovered at that federal government agency are appropriately whitewashed and hidden from public view and media scrutiny, while providing plausible excuses for all such incidents and furthermore, administering swift and effective punishment to the dirty rats who squealed.”
“With all the training courses and seminars we put our agents through,” she fretted, “it’s a real disappointment that one of them failed to get the message.”
“And in the greater scheme of things,” I observed, “if somebody goes to the trouble of giving huge amounts to money to the Obama campaign, haven’t they earned an appointment to be the United States ambassador to some nice, cushy place like Luxembourg, Holland or Belgium?”
“Exactly,” my guest concurred.  “And if that person wants to spread some more of their vast wealth around buying… shall we say, various… services from the locals, why should frivolous and counterproductive media attention force them to explain their actions to unsophisticated taxpayers in godforsaken dumps like Omaha, St. Louis and Peoria?”
“It’s diplomacy, after all,” I noted.
“Nothing the typical American rube would understand,” my guest agreed, “even if we went to the considerable effort involved with explaining it to them.  Yet here, because of this loudmouthed troublemaker, we have some Tea Party clown in Congress – someone like Ted Cruz – just foaming at the mouth, absolutely rabid to drag this business out into the public square where they can flaunt their Puritanical morality, ranting and raving like Cotton Mather on a seventeenth-century New England witch hunt!  And doing so, I might add, with absolutely no recognition of the cultural context in which the ambassador acted, or consideration of the grave implications for US foreign policy and serious potential for damage to the US image abroad!”
“How, indeed,” I inquired, rhetorically, of course, “could someone from Texas comprehend, for example, the erotic-economic mores of an adolescent Walloon?  Most Texans couldn’t point to Wallonia on a map, not even to save their favorite hand-made cowboy boots from confiscation by the IRS.”
“Precisely,” Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay confirmed.  “And what I want from you today is some ideas on how the OIG can prevent this sort of embarrassment to the State Department in the future.”
“A good starting point,” I told her, “because the first principle is prevention.  Avoid staffing your OIG with personnel who might turn whistle blower in the first place.”
“But,” she objected, “we already screen potential OIG staff very carefully.  We select them from the dregs of the US Civil Service, choosing only the dullest, most ignorant, laziest, least motivated, most disorganized nincompoops we can find.”
“I’m sure you do,” I acknowledged.  “And, given the quality of the current United States Civil Service, there is undoubtedly a vast collection of dull, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated, disorganized nincompoops from which to choose.  That, in fact, may be a significant part of your staffing problem – if all of your candidates are typical US Civil Service, then all of them will be dull, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated, disorganized nincompoops.  So - how do you perform the selection?”
“Why,” Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay answered, “we have several OIG supervisors interview the candidates, naturally.”
“And then?” I prodded.
“And then,” she revealed, “after interviewing between twenty and thirty candidates for between one and three positions, they convene a standard four-hour federal government meeting to discuss the candidates’ relative merits, qualifications and backgrounds.  Then they hold another four-hour meeting to narrow the field to between five and ten prospective candidates, and final four-hour meeting after that to agree on ultimate selections for the open position or positions.  Then there’s about six weeks of paperwork, of course.”
“And all of this,” I sought to confirm, “is completely subjective?”
“Um… yes,” she admitted.  “It’s all based on the interviewing supervisors’ extensive Civil Service experience.”
“Experience,” I pointed out, “in being dull, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated, disorganized nincompoops, correct?”
“Deep and highly intensive experience,” she strongly asserted.  “These are top Civil Service people we’re talking about here – GS 15’s, SES, that sort of thing.  Every one of them has been a dull, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated, disorganized federal government nincompoop for at least seventeen years.  It seems to me they ought to know one when they see one!”
“And yet,” I reminded her, “here we are, trying to figure out how your system went wrong.”
“True,” she confessed.  “I can’t say we’re proud about that.”
“What the State Department OIG needs to do,” I recommended, “is take the subjective element of dull, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated, disorganized nincompoopery out of your new staff position evaluations.”
“Um…” Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay pondered, “and just how do we do that?”
“Construct an interactive test,” I proposed, “to be administered on-line.  Then process the State Department OIG candidate responses with an algorithm that not only applies objective assessment formulas to the customary dullness, ignorance, laziness, amotivational and nincompoop personality parameters, but also includes effective measurement indices for complacency, lack of curiosity, conformity, lack of imagination, fear of authority, extreme aversion to risk and obsession with personal comfort and safety.  Such software as that, Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay, with allow you to staff your OIG with ideal candidates, none of whom will ever embarrass the State Department by blowing the whistle on its cover-ups.”
“If a computer program like that could be written,” she opined, “it seems to me, not only would it solve our whistle blower problems at State OIG, it could be used to recruit the ideal federal Civil Service work force throughout the Executive Branch of the United States government.”
“So it could,” I affirmed.
“And you can… design something like that?” Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay speculated.
“Definitely,” I assured her.  “I can prepare a platform- and implementation-environment independent software requirements specification for OIG in less than two weeks.  Would you like to read a proposal and review level of effort estimates?”
“When?” Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay blurted, barely able to contain her enthusiasm.
“How about COB next Monday?” I suggested.
“Uh… yes, yes, do that,” she requested as she glanced at her wrist watch, rose to shake my hand and made for the door.  “Thank you, Mr. Collins.”  Then she turned back to look at me as her expression betrayed a distaff thought.  “What about the people who currently work for the State Department OIG?”
“No problem,” I attested.  “Already thought of that.  Just consider it an added-value feature that’s going to be delivered baked into the code.”
“What?” Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay barked back at me, mystified and anxious.
“Simple,” I explained.  “Give your current staff the test, too.”
“And if they flunk?” Dr. Tsvangari-O’Shay’s words hung in the air expectantly.  “If they’re not dull, lazy, disorganized, ignorant, unmotivated, unimaginative, fearful and stupid enough?
“We know, of course,” I conceded, “that it would be impossible to fire them – they’re in the US Civil Service.  But they could be transferred, couldn’t they?  How about to some other agency you don’t like, for instance, such as the EPA?”  
“Collins,” she sighed, “you’re damned expensive, but it’s worth every cent!”
“I will take that, madame,” I assured her, “as a compliment.”

   
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