Friday, December 28, 2007

Detection

I woke up as sick as ever. Full of headache, sinus infection, and aches. Fun!

I rolled into work late (normal, but please blame the illness). The first thing that greets me is an email alerting me of an "emergency." It's not a life or death emergency, it's a work emergency.

Uh oh.

While TR is gone for the holiday, I'm acting. I'm the boss. If I'm the boss it means that no one else is there. In this case, it's me and two other staff people.

This is the emergency: my office is doing a survey. In order for any government agency to do a survey, you must get approval from OMB. After they grant approval, you have a certain amount of time in which to conduct the survey. If you are going to run out of time, you request an extension. In this case, we were requesting an emergency extension because the initial survey period was shorter than usual and things took longer than expected.

We sent this request to OMB about 30 days ago. We need the extension by the first of the year. So, OMB lets us know that they have a problem two days before the permission expires. Lovely.

Oh, and the OMB message? "Can you please explain in detail the need for this EE?"

Now, I don't know anything about this particular study. I know it exists, I know the general issue, but I have no idea what the status of the study is. I don't know if the survey is underway, I don't know why the extension is being requested, I don't know which contractor is doing the study. I do know that the people who have these answers are out of town.

I call Lucy, the woman who forwarded me the OMB email. Lucy is our agency's contact with OMB and we have to go through her to deal with this.

I say I don't know much about the study. Lucy says she isn't sure if we need the extension. I ask, "Isn't the reason for the extension in what we sent to OMB?"

She says, "From what TR said before, you're putting in another request for OMB approval on this project, so maybe that will be enough."

"Maybe, but I don't know. If we're in the field now, then we need the extension."

In the meantime, Lucy has sent a message to OMB telling them that since we have another package in the works, would they rather disregard our emergency request.

I tell Lucy I'm not comfortable with that since we could be in the field--doing the survey! Which is technically illegal if our OMB approval expires. I tell her I'm going to make some calls and get back to her as soon as I know something.

I email TR. Then I call his cell phone. Then I call Danielle's cell phone, since I know she's worked on this project. I also send her email. I don't reach either of them.

I call some other people at work. No one knows anything.

Instead of getting frustrated I start to feel like a detective. I'm going to figure out a way to track this down. I decide the next thing to do is find out who the contractor is. They should know the status of the project. I figure out who the contractor is and put in a call to a woman I know who works there. She knows who is in charge of the project but he is out. She says she'll send an email around and find out if anyone else can answer my questions.

I call Lucy, tell her what's up and ask for more time. She doesn't promise anything.

Then TR emails with all the answers. The survey is on-going and we need the extension. Duh. If we didn't need it, then why would we ask for it?

I was actually a little disappointed that I wasn't able to solve the problem on my own, but it was fun trying.

I also handed in my application for the leadership-training program. Go me.

I'm off to relax for the rest of the weekend. You do likewise and don't go getting sick like me.

Grateful for: responsibility.

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