Feds' $4.35B for dairy and eggs is cracked, say cloud experts

Coupa, a "cloud-based spend optimization" company, proclaims it can solve the budget crisis. All the US government has to do is, well, act like a business. Oh.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Should the government put its eggs into fewer baskets? DivasCanCook/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Whenever friends tell me they can solve my problems, I am skeptical.

Somehow, they don't quite know the in-and-outs of my life and the people who creep into it.

So please take the following information and dip it into a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips, especially as it comes from people I don't even know -- and neither, I suspect, do you.

I have just been contacted by a no-doubt very fine, if cloudy, company to say it can solve the government budget crisis.

I always thought the whole point of budgets was to create crisis.

But anyway, thank goodness. We have a solution. We can all now go to our local bar, without fear that it will be closed due to some unforeseen financial woe.

For Coupa, which claims to be marvelous at cloud financial applications, has looked at the 2012 spending data at USASpending.gov and crowed. It found so many fine areas in which its fancy software -- which is used by many global corporations -- could cure our nation's financial (b)ills.

Did you know that the government spends $4.35 billion on dairy and eggs? How many Old MacDonalds are there in America?

Moreover, $1.45 billion is spent on fruit and vegetables -- and a further $1.23 billion on janitorial housekeeping.

I know you love figures more than I do. So please let me pour you some more numerical libations.

There are 151,917 government contracts for hand tools. (Insert your own joke here.) There are 112,781 contracts for office supplies. And those Old MacDonalds who provide the dairy and eggs? Well, they enjoy 63,664 contracts among them.

Coupa's vice president of business strategy, Amit Duvedi, must have been casually plucking an eyebrow and boiling an egg as he mused: "These numbers hint at huge savings opportunities."

His solution might seem obvious to many: "Slash the number of contracts while increasing the percentage of spend against the contracts remaining."

Oh, but I thought small was always beautiful. This smacks of large purchases and larger incentives to larger backhanders.

The next step is, of course, to put it all in the cloud and making everything run more smoothly. In the end, Coupa says that you can save 6 percent to 10 percent.

In total, the company claims it can save us all $14 billion. That's enough, allegedly, to pay the annual salaries of 271,987 public school teachers.

I'm always skeptical of those who promise efficiency.

Many companies are fond of hiring procurement managers who claim to save money and then cost the company in so many different ways that happen not to be part of the same budget from which they create savings.

But my congress, unlike the one in Washington, is an open one.

Software has shown so many times that it can save us money -- and, coincidentally, put thousands of people out of work at the same time -- that a dialogue is surely in order.

The fiscal year in Washington closes in a couple of weeks.

There will be horse trading. Perhaps they should look at the chicken trading too.