President Obama signed an order Tuesday giving agencies authority to investigate, suspend and debar contractors for human trafficking.
Agencies currently rely on contractors to self-police and report human trafficking activity to contracting officers. Investigations by government watchdogs such as the Project on Government Oversight and the Commission on Wartime Contracting have found recurrent human trafficking problems by “labor brokers” or subcontractors of war-zone contractors.
“As the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, the United States government bears a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars do not contribute to trafficking in persons,” Obama said in the executive order.
The order will take effect in six months.
The order prohibits contractors, subcontractors and their employees from trafficking-related practices, such as misleading or fraudulent recruitment practices, charging employees recruitment fees and destroying or confiscating an employee’s passport. Contract clauses will be added requiring contractors to cooperate with federal audits and investigations probing illegal trafficking in persons, the procurement of commercial sex acts or the use of forced labor.
Contractors that perform work abroad valued at more than $500,000 must maintain compliance plans that include an employee awareness program and a process for employees to report trafficking violations without fear of retaliation.
The administration also announced other initiatives Tuesday to combat human trafficking, including:
Providing human trafficking training and guidance to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, immigration judges, commercial transportation officials, state and local law enforcement partners, state workforce agencies and educators.
Expanding services and legal assistance to victims of trafficking, such as improving procedures that allow victims to remain in the United States and aid the prosecution of their traffickers.
Tracking human trafficking trends within the United States, enabling both law enforcement and service providers to deploy resources more effectively.