Does the Col. love you? Does he want a job soon? Did you bribe him? You may have to answer all of these questions. As a long-time government employee, I found that vendors frequently did not know how to act in their own best interest.

The best you can hope for is that the Col. admires your firm and proposal and, although he is cheating, he won’t get caught. Just as likely is the scenario where he is cheating and might get caught. Or even worse is the one where he is not only cheating the system, but he is also cheating you.

How so? The Col. may not be telling you the truth. The other bid is really $16.1 and he will lower it to $15.9. He is the preferred bidder, and you are wallpaper for the file. When the truth emerges, you can prove nothing and you can only prove the Col. cheated by revealing that you did also. Tough spot.

Or take this vignette. A voice on the phone offers to sell you the bid, the total bid, of a major competitor on an Army deal worth about $60 million. And the price is only $200,000. What an opportunity.

To go to jail I mean. A Vice President from a well-known systems integrator called one day with the plaintive cry for help as to what he should do? What would you do? If you are smart you call the FBI. That was my advice; he did and they caught the guilty party.

Now look at how the Vice President is in the catbird seat. The FBI calls a meeting with the contracts shop and the Inspector General (IG). There are five bidders. You are A. The crook works for B and is about to take a long trip to an unpleasant place. What about C, D and E? Did the crook not try to make a few more sales? Can you imagine the spot they are in when the FBI visits this afternoon and asks pointed questions? They did not call the FBI, you see. Thus either the crook had one favorite competitor, you, or else he called them as well and, if they deny it, the government will assume they are lying. To make a long story short, A won and looked like a hero to the Army.

You have got to love this business. In the commercial world I might legally show you the B, C and D bids. If we are doing a reverse auction the government will show you. Is there no honor left?