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Lawmaker proposes overhaul of contractor suspension process

Feb. 11, 2013 - 05:20PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

A key lawmaker is proposing to overhaul the way the government bars contractors from receiving federal contracts.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., circulated draft legislation Feb. 7 that would create a commission to oversee all suspension and debarment cases. Currently, each agency decides whether to suspend or debar a contractor.

The board, which would reside within the General Services Administration, would ensure that standards are consistent and that contractors are treated fairly, “including small businesses with limited legal resources,” according to the legislation.

“In the 21st century we must have zero tolerance for fraudsters, criminals or tax cheats receiving taxpayer money through grants or contracts,” Issa said in a news release.

The draft legislation has sparked criticism from the Professional Services Council, which represents federal contractors. Legislation should instead focus on reforming the existing agency-by-agency system, according to Roger Jordan, vice president of government relations at PSC.

“We would encourage looking at how to improve those processes within the current structure,” Jordan said.

Ray Bjorklund, vice president and chief knowledge officer at Deltek, a market research firm, said the legislation is a good step because it would standardize the monitoring and enforcement of suspension and debarment rules instead of allowing it to be managed inconsistently from one agency to another.

Agencies’ use of suspension and debarment varies widely — and many agencies do not dedicate enough resources to it, according to a November 2011 Government Accountability Office report.

“While the legislation calls for shutting down the debarment and suspension offices in the civilian agencies in deference to a new board, it seems kind of odd that Republicans are proposing an expansion of government in the form of another organization and all the trappings that go with it, rather than tightening up the authority and processes of the Interagency Committee on Debarment and Suspension,” Bjorklund said.

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