Procurement leader blasts mandatory debarment proposal

The senior administration official says agencies should consider each case on its own merit.

Dan Gordon, the top federal procurement policy official, today warned a commission looking at contracting in war zones against making one-size-fits-all recommendations to toughen punishments on contractors.

Testifying before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said contractors are working in different circumstances than their stateside counterparts doing more prosaic work,  and those conditions should play a part in how the government deals with problems.

He is concerned about the commission’s recommendation to require agencies to suspend or debar companies accused of wrongdoing. In its latest report released Feb. 24, the commission proposed making suspensions mandatory for a predetermined amount of time against companies because of contract-related indictments. The recommendation would remove the discretion of the suspension and debarment official, according to the report.

Related story:

Contracting panel urges suspensions, debarments for misbehaving contractors

The commission delved into the penalties agencies should use against a contractor's misconduct. It concluded the government often chooses to issue administrative agreements. (Read story) Officials have told the commission procedures are too complex. They instead turn to these agreements, which aren’t as effective as tough suspensions or three-year debarments, according to the report.

Gordon said officials could consider a streamlined process for the suspending and debarring decision process and flexibilities in certain places. He also said it may be best to limit a suspension or debarment to a certain region.

Gordon said that ties back to managing contracts and overseeing a contractor.

“For too long, we have focused so much on contract awards that we have neglected what must come before and after contract awards — sound acquisition planning and consistent contract management,” Gordon said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 Robert Huntsville,AL

While Mr. Gordon does do a good job of pleading his case, I think that the jest of the argument is lost based on the severity of the penalty. If you understand what the panel is saying; the penalty would be accessed against companies that have received contract-related indictments. In our country this usually means that “an official statement accusing someone of crime. From a legal standpoint; “an official statement accusing someone of committing a serious crime, or the document with which this is done.” This is normally convened by a formal law or legal tribunal and only after all the facts are reviewed is the decision made whether or not and indictment should be handed down. In the case defended by Mr. Gordon it would appear that he is arguing leniency based on demographics. If there are extenuating circumstances as to why a certain practice or procedure may have been circumvented, swayed or omitted while in the act of performing in a contract, then that information would be disclosed during the indictment procedure. But is the act of outright violating contract procedure and policy for the sake of increasing profitability, (which is in mast situations is the case), then the contractor should suffer the fullness of the penalty prescribed by the law. Still valid today, even in contracting, are the words spoken by Dr. King about fairness, truth and justice: “an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere”.

Tue, Mar 1, 2011

Heaven forbid that contract management, fines, suspensions, etc. get in the way of wartime profiteering. I have seen hundreds of contracts 'mismanaged' with penalty clauses ignored in interest of 'expediency.' The system is defective because no one enforces the rules or the contract terms as they are. Changing the rules won't help. The abuse of the system turns my stomach.

Tue, Mar 1, 2011

Dan Gordon, as usual, could not be more correct. The blood lust to hang each and every contractor on a meat hook has to stop if we're going to have a functioning government. Gordon is correct, also, that it takes two to tango. I.e. the failures of government to properly plan and manage their own contracts should not merely be passed off as contractor misconduct. The govermment has some responsibility to be compliant as well.

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