Industry faults Dem contracting bill

Groups representing service contractors reacted quickly and negatively to legislation introduced last week by several House Democrats, who say it is intended to increase oversight and reduce fraud and abuse in contracting.

The Contract Services Association said the bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is an “election-year ploy,” while Professional Services Council President Stan Soloway said many of its provisions are “solutions in search of problems.”

The bill, introduced Sept. 13, was referred to the Government Reform, Armed Services, Rules and Small Business committees.

A group of Congressmen who call themselves the House Democratic Waste, Fraud and Abuse Truth Squad, introduced the bill called the Clean Contracting Act of 2006. Its provisions include limiting noncompetitive contracts awarded for emergency needs to eight months and allowing contractors to subcontract no more than 65 percent of the work on contracts. It would also extend from one year to two the time that federal contracting officials must wait before taking jobs with contractors they supervised while in the government.

“The way the Bush administration has squandered taxpayer dollars is shameful,” Waxman said. “Indifference, incompetence and corruption have wasted billions of dollars. This bill represents a new direction that will protect taxpayers and restore accountability.”

However, that’s not how contracting groups see it.

“The bill will do little to responsibly improve and streamline government processes but will impose new, unnecessary, punitive requirements on the federal procurement system,” said Chris Jahn, president of the Contract Services Association, in a statement.

The CSA’s blistering statement called the bill a “political hatchet job” and charged Democrats with unfairly criticizing contractors and federal contracting officers.

Waxman had introduced a version of the legislation several months ago. Whether the new bill has any chance of passage largely depends on whether it gets support from the Government Reform Committee, Soloway said. If Democrats win control of the House in November, the legislation will likely become much more viable, he added.

“That doesn’t mean it will pass,” Soloway said. “Some of the people pushing this thing, no matter how extreme their views are, are people you can talk to.”

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the committee’s chairman, declined to comment.

Soloway said the legislation is no surprise, but it is troubling.

“It’s essentially every bad idea we’ve seen over the past few years,” he said. “It’s a combination of the pernicious and the uninformed.”

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