Federal agencies suspended or debarred more than 3,000 irresponsible contractors last year, a 47 percent increase from the previous year, a new federal report shows.
Agencies suspended and debarred 3,326 contractors in 2011. That is up 70 percent from the 1,918 contractors suspended and debarred in 2009, the first year the committee was required to report on these actions, and its up from 2,263 in 2010, according to the latest annual report by the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee, a large group of procurement experts across government that discusses best practices, trends, and challenges to the suspension and debarment process. The report was released Tuesday.
“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,” Joseph Jordan, administrator of federal procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget, said in announcing the findings in a blog post Tuesday afternoon.
OMB ordered agencies in November to make greater use of suspension and debarment tools against irresponsible vendors and to take corrective action whenever a contract award is improperly made to a suspended or debarred company.
The law permits agencies to suspend contractors for up to 18 months or debar them from contracts for up to three years if they commit fraud or other wrongdoing and are determined to no longer be responsible. However, congressional committees and federal investigators have found that many agencies lack dedicated suspension and debarment staff, effective guidance on when suspension or debarment is appropriate, and processes for referring suspect contractors for action.
The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee cites steps agencies have taken in the past year to step up their suspension and debarment activities. Agencies have established or re-established suspension and debarment programs, increased suspension and debarments staffs, bolstered monitoring of their suspension and debarment practices, simplified referrals for potential suspension or debarment, and automatically refer some contractors to suspension and debarment officials in certain circumstances.
The Navy changed its policy to require a more thorough review of contractors who were suspended or debarred within the prior two years before awarding them new contracts.
The U.S. Agency for International Development hired six full-time employees to focus on suspension and debarment in 2011. This year, the agency debarred 16 people who submitted fraudulent receipts for federal foreign assistance in Malawi, Jordan said in his blog.
The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee has also established standing subcommittees to help agencies create or improve their suspension and debarment offices, to review processes for coordinating suspension and debarment actions when two or more agencies want to take action against the same contractor, and to develop a website that will help information sharing across agencies, the report said.