Feds doing a better job of sorting out bad contractors

GAO says suspension and debarment actions have more than doubled over the past four years.

fraud in digits

What: Government Accountability Office report titled "Agencies Have Taken Steps to Improve Suspension and Debarment Programs"

Why: The federal government uses suspensions and debarments to keep individuals, contractors and grantees guilty of various kinds of misconduct from getting future contracts, grants and other federal assistance.

In 2011, GAO said it reviewed 10 agencies and found the ones that had issued the most procurement-related suspensions and debarments shared common characteristics, including dedicated staff, detailed policies and procedures, and an active referral process. GAO recommended that six agencies -- the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Justice, State, and Treasury, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- incorporate those characteristics. It also asked the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance on how to improve oversight and government-wide suspension and debarment efforts.

GAO makes no new recommendations in the latest report, while noting that  since it issued recommendations for improvement in 2011, the number of suspension and debarment actions has more than doubled across all agencies.

GAO also said that all six of the targeted agencies had taken action to incorporate characteristics associated with active suspension and debarment programs and had addressed staffing issues such as defining roles and responsibilities, adding positions, and consolidating suspension and debarment functions.

The agencies, it said, have also have issued formal policies and promulgated detailed guidance for the processes.

Verbatim: "The number of suspension and debarment actions government-wide has more than doubled from 1,836 in fiscal year 2009 to 4,812 in fiscal year 2013. The number of suspension and debarment actions for the six agencies increased from 19 in fiscal year 2009 to 271 in fiscal year 2013."

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