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Paving the way for smooth graft giving

| Wednesday, June 29, 2005

No wonder state roads are in such sorry shape. Contractors apparently are interested more in spreading graft among PennDOT employees than they are in spreading asphalt.

State Transportation Secretary and supreme spoilsport Allen Biehler recently e-mailed 49 companies doing business with PennDOT with a request: Stop being so darn generous to my employees.

Biehler apparently believes a minor thing like a law forbidding it should prevent these companies from giving workers presents.

Escorting them to sporting events.

Paying for their meals.

Doing everything but buying them a dozen roses and inviting them to a romantic getaway weekend where they can, ahem, take their relationship to the next level.

It's not that Biehler wants contractors to stop counting among their closest friends PennDOT employees who could determine whether they might get multimillion-dollar contracts.

If his e-mail is to be believed, though, Biehler would prefer these lasting friendships not rely so much upon, oh, let's see, "gifts, gratuities, favors, entertainment, loans or other things of monetary value."

Biehler's intentions might be good, but somehow I don't think a single communique will be enough to stop such behavior.

Rather than attempt to eradicate what appears to be a culture of petty but prevalent corruption at PennDOT, it would be much easier to simply embrace it.

To get everyone on the same page, Biehler should lobby for the Legislature to repeal that silly old law barring gifts to PennDOT workers. It's not as though it would be missed; heck, it's probably being ignored by someone even as you read this.

Having wiped the archaic law from the books, PennDOT then might get everyone on the same page when it comes to graft. The department could devise and insert convenient graft requirements for contractors right into its bid specifications.

Desperate to be the company that installs new lighting in a dingy tunnel?

All it might cost you is a box of chocolate-covered cherries, a set of SUV tires and tickets to the Civic Light Opera's upcoming production of "Tommy."

Want to paint a rusting bridge along one of the parkways?

Be prepared to provide dinner for four at Baum Vivant, a pair of quality hiking boots and someone to drive great-Aunt Frieda to Flo's Coiffures for her Wednesday afternoon hair appointments.

You think your company should be the one to resurface nine miles of highway?

Prove it and pony up an above-ground pool, pet cemetery plot, china closet, skydiving lessons and the collected works of Charles Dickens (leatherbound volumes only, please).

Instituting a standardized graft system would eliminate all the guesswork and negotiations involved in maintaining the goodwill that exists between PennDOT employees and contractors.

Liberated from the tedious chore of subtle bartering, they might be able to pave the roads more quickly.

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