They had better have good, solid, technical reason to believe these guys they hired, else they are bullshittees who hired bullshitters to lay on the bullshit in thick, soothing layers. In which case, management failure.
I'm not usually in the room when those decisions are made. But I had a bird's eye view once. The guy making the decision wasn't a bullshitter. He was in fact, the sort of boss I'd like to work for if all bosses were like him. He wanted to find reasonable technical solutions to business issues, pay everyone a fair salary, and have everyone get along. His technical skills were rusty but he knew his stuff in the day and sometimes it still came in handy. They weren't shiny because he'd been placed in a position where he had to deal too much with people who didn't have his outlook on the business. We interviewed three people for a Help Desk Manager position. One of them bored me to tears and I couldn't remember a thing about him. Governmental functionary type but his accomplishments resume looked good. Another one was bright, energetic, and marked off a couple boxes on the quota sheet. In a different environment I would have hired her in a heartbeat. One problem with her stood out. We didn't have a lot of documented processes. What we had was learned by apprenticeship. And while management was trying to move us more toward an ITIL model it was a hard slog. For almost every question she referred checking the documented processes. She wouldn't have lasted two weeks in our environment. The third person was the one I liked. Sounded like he had come from an environment that started like ours, but made significant progress on documenting the processes and was leaving the company in a better place than he'd found it. He'd survive our environment and might even be able to fix some stuff. The Boss hired the first guy. His thinking was he'd be better able to handle some of the contentious office politics than the other two, and what he really needed was someone to offload that work to so he could focus on the other stuff that he really needed to. His rationale wasn't bad. And during the second interview his skill set sounded like it was going to be a decent fit to where we expected our company to be in a couple of years. I was RIFed about 6 months later (made sense from a purely business perspective, no need for the assistant to the manager when you only have half the people). Through the grapevine I heard that a couple months after that the guy broke his leg skiing, and 6 month after that found himself a new job. Yes, after the hire was made it turned out the guy was a really good BSer. But I don't think my boss was looking to be the bullshitee. And while I'm usually fair at smelling the BS, I didn't recognize how much of it he was laying on myself. It's not necessarily bad intentions, sometimes it is just a bad result.
suggests that this core piece of dosh tracking code was seriously underfunded. If so, who was to blame.
No one. When it was written it wasn't known that it was going to last as long as it did and that 15 years down the road it would be handling that much stuff. It was expected to last the length of a smallish five year contract and that it did quite well. But it got re-used because it existed, and more and more contracts were won and added to it. And until the switch to XP it all just kept on working. Keep in mind were talking about a company trying to make money managing government grants. The government regards that as more of a public service than something a private company should make money from, so margins are always razor thin. It's all well and good to argue that good management would have had a code review every time a contract was added and that all risks would be identified and factored into the cost of the contract. The reality is there are always unknown risks.
If there are no real-world examples of success, it is time to give up on the ideology no matter how right it feels.
I'm not saying I haven't gone off on the exact same rant you are when I've had a bad day. And God it feels good to rant like that. But if good management as described by you succeeded we'd see a hell of a lot more of it than we do.