shameful act of retiring missing assets

The Shameful Act of Retiring Missing Assets

My mother taught high school science for over 30 years in inner-city Columbus Public Schools. She constantly complained (privately and publicly) about unethical administrators who lost sight of the mission to educate children. Many of my friends and family are educators, so I’ve grown accustomed (and somewhat deaf) to hearing about evil school administrators who don’t appreciate the value of classroom teachers.

After reading the report from an 18-month state investigation which found a “culture of deceit” in Columbus schools, I owe my mother a big apology. The damning report details how the former Superintendent surrounded herself with cheaters, and then nurtured and protected them. Four high school principals (including my mom’s) and several administrators have been fired or forced to resign and face charges for altering attendance records for struggling students to improve school performance ratings, which can be used to determine government funding and employee bonuses.

We have grown accustom to seeing scandals in accounting (Enron, Lehman Brothers), sports (Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds) and politics (IRS Targeting, NSA Surveillance). It is frustrating when politicians cheat. It is depressing when athletes lie. It hurts our pocketbooks when bankers swindle. It seems even worse, however, when cheaters deliberately deceive vulnerable victims, causing permanent damages simply because they are lazy and don’t want to look bad.

The Ohio state auditor’s report detailed nine key ways in which Columbus Public school employees altered data to make their schools appear to be better than they actually were. Employees were taught how to use these nine ways to systematically falsify data. Shameful.

How does this relate to IT Asset Management? About a week ago, an IT asset manager posted a question on LinkedIn regarding how best to handle the problem of missing assets. I was appalled to read a consultant immediately recommend, “one way to handle the situation” is to mark missing assets as “Retired” in the asset management system. When a few of us expressed dismay, she continued by justifying and warning, otherwise the IT asset manager “will spend significant amount of time chasing” missing the assets.

ITAM is accountable for life-cycle management of information technology assets across an organization. ITAM’s responsibilities include the development policies, processes, and systems to manage the IT asset portfolio with respect to risk, cost, and compliance. Similar to teaching, the job is neither easy nor glamorous. Frankly, it is often thankless. That does not excuse the shameful practice of “retiring” assets that are missing because it is more convenient and might make the ITAM function look better.

Educators who manipulate data cheat children out of a decent education and handicap them for life. Is it as serious when ITAM manipulates data to hide losses by classifying missing assets as retired? When ITAM obstructs privacy efforts that are designed to protect individual confidentiality, it can affect millions of individuals. Privacy breaches have a major cost to organizations and an even greater toll on the victims. Bottom-line, both practices are shameful. They betray our trust and they cause damage to helpless victims.

A recent development in the Columbus Public Schools data scrubbing scandal…more than 30 educators have been referred for investigation. Two of the fired principals are now suing for wrongful termination. The principals admit to deliberately rigging the data. However, they claim they were “just doing what they were trained to do.” The cheaters are claiming they are actually the victim. Where is their remorse? Now our tax dollars will be spent to defend against fraudulent claims. Absolutely shameful.

It is hard for me to admit this…Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.

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