Report Contractors should get more oversight
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Dec 09, 2008
Recent laws that require more disclosure by government contractors
don't go far enough to effectively regulate those companies, according
to a new report from the Center for American Progress.
has moved in the right direction to make companies come under more
scrutiny, but the Obama administration and incoming Congress need to do
more, according to the report, titled “Making Contracting Work for the
To get more information from contractors, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act,
which became law in 2006 and ultimately produced USASpending.gov,
created an online database that details where government money is going
and to whom. The bill was sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
However, this Congress hasn't enacted similar laws. However, the fiscal 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3001),
signed by President George W. Bush in October, includes several
provisions that check contractors in other ways. It requires ethics
safeguards related to contractors’ conflicts of interest and authorizes
the Government Accountability Office to interview contractors’
Also, the fiscal 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 2642) mandates greater fraud reporting requirements and requires certain contractors to disclose their top employees’ salaries.
center's report, released Dec. 8, said federal officials need to
systematically collect more information on contractors, such as
subcontracting and employees' wages, and create a centralized database
with those records.
“The database should be used by federal
contracting officers when evaluating bids, as well as be available to
the public because sunshine is a powerful force for exposing wasteful
and abusive contracting,” the report stated. Meanwhile, a lack of
contractor information weakens enforcement and accountability on
companies, it said.
The report charges that the Bush administration actively sought to
undermine reforms and weaken worker protections while requiring the
agencies to collect less information from contractors during the
procurement process. The result has been abuses that are either ignored
or given inadequate weight when awarding contracts, the center said.
“Federal contracting is not supposed to work this way,” the report stated.
The report proposed hiring more contracting officers, increasing
their training and having them improve monitoring of existing
contracts, including targeted investigations into industries known for
“Contracting officers do not have easy access to information they
need about a company’s record, especially for subcontractors, and are
frequently overworked and understaffed, limiting their ability to do
the hard work of holding companies accountable,” according to the
Although he said the report makes some worthwhile recommendations,
Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an
industry group, added that he disagreed with its underlying
“Unfortunately, the rhetoric woven throughout the
report, coupled with the incorrect presumption as to the accuracy or
irrelevance of much of its underlying ‘data,’ serves to paint a larger
and inaccurate picture of the current contracting environment,” he
said. “In so doing, this report undercuts the valid recommendations
presented in the report.”
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.