Contractor suspensions and debarments doubled over the last 4 years

The number of contractor suspensions and debarments government-wide have doubled since fiscal 2009 because agencies have developed better management tools and a more active referral process, a May 21 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says.

Agencies can use suspension and debarment to exclude individuals, contractors and grantees from receiving future contracts, grants and other federal assistance due to various types of misconduct.

A previous GAO report found agencies issuing the most procurement related suspensions and debarments shared common characteristics: dedicated staff, detailed policies and procedures, and an active referral process.

Many agencies that previously faltered in rooting out contractor misconduct have taken the lead from those stronger agencies, the latest report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-contractor-suspensions-and-debarments-have-doubled-over-last-4-years/2014-05-22

GSA acquisition database integration pushed back to 2018

The General Services Administration (GSA) pushed back the planned completion date of an integrated acquisition database to 2018 because of development problems and cost overruns, GSA Assistant Commissioner Kevin Youel Page told a Senate panel March 6.

“We’ve suffered our own missteps,” Page said during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight.

Plans were made in 2001 to combine governmentwide acquisition databases into a single system called the Integrated Acquisition Environment.

But the project has been plagued with problems.

A March 2012 Government Accountability Office report says cost overruns, which grew by 89 percent, were largely due to mistakes GSA has made. GAO initially estimated it would cost about $95.7 million, but the 2012 estimate came in at $181.1 million.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gsa-acquisition-database-integration-pushed-back-2018/2014-03-07 

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IG: Debarred firms remain listed for transportation set-asides

The Department of Transportation IG has alerted the department that it found three suspended or debarred firms currently listed in state Disadvantaged Business Enterprises directories as eligible to participate in the DBE program.

The IG issued a management advisory stemming from a recent audit into the DBE program, noting that federal regulations explicitly exclude suspended or debarred firms from receiving federally funded contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fedweek.com/item-view.php?tbl=3&ID=5412 

Read DOT IG’s letter at: http://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/dot/files/DBE%20Management%20Advisory.pdf 

Agencies need governmentwide guidance on suspension and debarment process, GAO official says

Though the suspension and debarment system has been around for many years,  there is little guidance for it, Government Accountability Office Acting  Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management John Neumann said at a June 12  House Government and Oversight Committee hearing.

“You won’t find anywhere in the U.S. code other than a note in the financial  chapter,” Neumann said. “That’s part of the problem. We created a system, but  did not supply guidance on how it should operate.”

The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee, established in 1986,  monitors and coordinates the governmentwide system of suspension and debarment,  but agencies aren’t required to work with the ISDC, Neumann noted.

ISDC relies on voluntary agency participation in its informal coordination  process, which works well when used, he said. However, Neumann found that not  all agencies coordinated through ISDC, and agencies without active suspension  and debarment programs generally were not represented at monthly coordination  meetings.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/agencies-need-governmentwide-guidance-suspense-and-debarment-process-gao-of/2013-06-13?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

FEMA official gets two years’ probation for revolving-door relationship with contractor

Private industry frequently considers hiring existing and former federal government employees for their experience, knowledge base and skill set. As a reaction to the continuing perception that high-level federal employees jump from government to private industry and take sensitive government information with them, over the years Congress has introduced complex and often overlapping revolving-door legislation that imposes post-government employment restrictions on certain employees. While many government employees successfully transition to the private sector, failure to observe revolving-door laws and regulations can result in severe consequences for both contractors and government employees. A recent example of what can go wrong for both such parties is the case of Timothy Cannon and the Gallup Organisation.

On April 9 2013 Judge Jackson of the District Court for the District of Columbia sentenced Timothy Cannon, former director of the human capital division at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to two years of probation for conflict of interest violations.

According to Cannon’s plea, he helped Gallup to acquire a $6 million contract, while at the same time pursuing employment with the company. As a result of its alleged employment discussions with Cannon and related conduct, Gallup faces potential liability for civil damages and penalties under the False Claims Act and the Procurement Integrity Act, including treble damages and disgorgement of all money received under the contract. Moreover, these types of case always raise the risk of the contractor’s suspension or debarment, which would preclude any new contract awards for up to three years. This case serves as a reminder for private contractors wishing to hire existing or former government employees that they must have rigorous internal controls in place in order to ensure compliance with post-government employment requirements.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.internationallawoffice.com/newsletters/detail.aspx?g=cb1ea107-d51f-4ad7-b375-00f8a3dad2d7&redir=1 

EPA temporarily suspends BP from federal contracts

The Environmental Protection Agency has temporarily suspended the oil and gas conglomerate BP from receiving any new federal contracts, according to a statement released Wednesday.

Citing the environmental disaster following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, EPA said BP’s “lack of business integrity” will bar the company from receiving any new contracts with the government until the company meets “federal business standards.” EPA said the government still will adhere to its existing agreements with the company. BP currently has major fuel contracts with the Defense Department

As part of a deal announced in mid-November that settled criminal charges with the federal government, BP will be paying nearly $4.5 billion in damages and could still face civil lawsuits in the future. In a statement released Nov 15, BP said companies “convicted of certain criminal acts can be debarred from contracting with the federal government” but it had not been “advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or disbar the company.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/11/epa-temporarily-suspends-bp-federal-contracts/59793/?oref=govexec_today_nl.

Contractor suspensions and debarments on the rise, says White House

Suspensions and debarments of companies that violate federal contracting rules have increased across the government over the past three years, rising from just over 1,900 in fiscal 2009 to more than 3,000 in 2011, according to a new report.

In a blog post scheduled for release on Sept. 18, 2012, White House Administrator of Federal Procurement Policy Joe Jordan wrote,“while the vast majority of government contractors compete fairly to deliver the best value to the American people, it is critical that the government take a hard line against those who would defraud taxpayers. This report shows the Obama administration has made significant progress in cracking down on bad actors. Just as significant as the progress are the management actions that underlie it, and indicate an increased agency commitment to protecting taxpayer resources.”

The report, from a coordinating body called the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee, follows up on a November 2011 memorandum from then-Office of Management and Budget director Jack Lew directing 24 departments and agencies to step up efforts to combat waste, fraud and abuse, in part by appointing a senior official to be accountable for progress.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/09/contractor-suspensions-and-debarments-rise-says-white-house/58175/

Justice fails to flag contractors with a criminal history

The Justice Department is not fulfilling its requirement to update procurement databases with information on contractors with a history of criminal activity, the department’s inspector general has found.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance has neglected its responsibility to obtain and update databases with contractors “convicted of fraud or any other felony arising out of a contract with the Department of Defense” or involved in drug trafficking, according to the IG. The bureau also failed in its statutory requirement to train U.S. attorneys to use these databases, the report said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/07/justice-fails-flag-contractors-criminal-history/56941/?oref=govexec_today_nl.

Suspension and debarment often misunderstood, contractors told

Though viewed by industry as a punishment, the government’s suspension and debarment procedure for errant contractors is designed to be an “instantaneous” way to protect taxpayers from irresponsible spending, a panel of procurement officials agreed on Thursday. They parted company, however, on whether the current rules afford sufficient due process to affected companies.

Speaking at the first Acquisition Excellence conference staged jointly by the General Services Administration and the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council, current and former procurement officials expressed concern that suspension and debarment has become “a hot topic” in Congress. Government Executive was one of four media partners for the conference.

It’s being used to go after “bad actors in all sorts of endeavors, from failure to pay taxes to fraud convictions,” said William Woods, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, which in October 2011 published a study comparing frequency of suspensions and departments at 10 agencies. Most of the contractors tagged as suspended on GSA’s Excluded Parties List System are there for reasons unrelated to federal contracting such as drug trafficking or violations of export controls, he said.

Seven of the fiscal 2012 appropriations bills contained language requiring use of suspensions and debarments, added Rob Burton, a top White House procurement administrator during the George W. Bush administration and now a partner at Venable LLP. But the purpose of suspension and debarment is “not complicated,” said Dan Gordon, former administrator of procurement policy for the Obama White House who is now associate dean for government contracts law at The George Washington University Law School. “The purpose is to protect the taxpayers, not to replace or supplement the Justice Department’s administration of justice — they take care of the bad guys,” he said. Gordon warned that many misread the GAO report to imply that the more an agency suspends and debars, the better, as if “what this country needs is to hang more contractors high from a tree.”

What the process requires is “a matter of checking, of being careful,” Gordon said. “The system works pretty well,” and doesn’t require new legislation or regulation. The interagency committee on suspension and debarment can help by sharing best practices among specialized staff at agencies, he added.

Burton disagreed, calling the current regulations “flawed in a fundamental way because they allow for no due process.” He described how his private sector clients can suddenly receive a letter informing them they can’t do business with the federal government and “they get no opportunity to present their own information or defend themselves.” He added the current rules “would not pass constitutional muster.”

Joseph Neurauter, GSA’s top suspension and debarment official, stressed that the tool is not intended as punishment for contractors, though he acknowledged it can jeopardize an individual’s job. “It’s about minimizing risk for the federal government,” which is why the suspension is “instantaneous,” he said. His job is to view the problem from the point of view of agency acquisitions teams, Neurauter added. But he does regularly send letters to individuals who are suspended and invite them to meet informally and “show cause” as to why they should regain eligibility for government contracts.

Asked about new legislation that would impose suspension and debarment consideration for war zone contractors involved in human trafficking, Woods said “that’s a policy call for Congress.” Gordon said he is “always concerned when Congress sets up an automatic system of suspension and debarment because it undercuts the process by precluding discretion by officials looking at the full picture.”

At other sessions of the all-day conference that assembled several hundred federal employees and contractors at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, GSA chief Martha Johnson opened proceedings by stressing the value of sustainability as a key to reframing procurement in an age of limited budgets. A related session was titled, Sustainable Acquisition: Is It a Dream or Is It Real?

At lunch, Lesley Field, acting White House administrator for federal procurement policy, and colleagues presented achievement awards to federal contracting professionals in categories of buying smarter, effective vendor communication and strategic sourcing.

In a nod to the challenge of preparing the next generation of acquisition officers, Steve Ressler, founder of the social networking tool GovLoop, moderated a panel of young federal contract specialists from several agencies who are in the Rising Acquisition Professionals program. It was set up in 2010 by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Acquisition Institute.

Other sessions focused on how tight budgets are affecting ongoing relationships among agency contracting officers, program managers and industry. Speakers stressed the importance of engagement and dialogue early in the acquisition process, and many complained that too many agency staff members are fearful of tapping the expertise of contractors for fear of violating the Federal Acquisition Regulation and favoring one potential bidder over others, possibly provoking a bid protest.

“Government and industry too often talk past each other on early engagement,” said Mark Day, director of the Office of Strategic Programs at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. “Government asks the wrong questions, asking about prices before we know the cost drives, and then they write requirements that drive costs up.” Contractors, in turn, too often target the title not the role, Day added, and he recommended they talk to the official actually writing the requirements. “Early engagement is a mystery to the government side, and they’re scared of it,” Day said. “But it is an opportunity to find the sweet spot between what the government needs, what the contractor can provide and what the FAR allows.”

– by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, Mar. 30, 2012 at http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/03/suspension-and-debarment-often-misunderstood-contractors-told/41638/.

GAO sets new policy on debarments, suspensions

As a legislative-branch agency the Government Accountability Office does not have to comply with Federal Acquisition Regulations on suspension, debarment and ineligibility of contractors, but it is choosing to adopt the rules.

The new policy comes out on the heels of the proposed debarment of Booz Allen’s San Antonio office by the Air Force. Published on the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) on Feb. 6, the action was related to a former government employee hired by Booz Allen who inappropriately retained and shared sensitive information about a pending government procurement.

GAO’s new policy, published in the Federal Register as a notice, took effect on Feb. 13, 2012.

GAO now will not solicit offers from, award contracts to, or consent to subcontracts with, contractors who are listed on the EPLS, according to the notice. Additionally, if GAO debars, proposes for debarment, or suspends a contractor, it will list that contractor in the EPLS.

The office first proposed and solicited comments on the policy on Sept. 30 and received only positive comments.

GAO’s Acquisition Management office , which is responsible for the majority of its contracting activities, will be the unit with primary responsibility for investigating and referring potential debarment and suspension actions to the debarment/suspension official for consideration.

As the debarring and suspending official, GAO’s Comptroller General, “will also be responsible for deciding whether to solicit offers from, award contracts to, or consent to subcontracts with contractors who have been debarred, suspended, or proposed for debarment, and whether to terminate a current contract or subcontract in existence at the time the contractor was debarred, suspended, or proposed for debarment,” the notice said.

About the Author: Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology. This article was published Feb. 13, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/02/13/gao-debarment-policy.aspx?s=wtdaily_140212.