OFPP head encourages 'hard line' against unscrupulous contractors

President Barack Obama’s senior procurement policy official touted the administration’s efforts to crack down on questionable contractors, as suspensions and debarments have been on the rise.

“It is critical that the government take a hard line against those who would defraud taxpayers,” Joe Jordan, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, wrote on the OMBlog on Sept. 18.

He cited a new report from the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee, which is a group of officials from various agencies. The committee said the government has increased suspensions and debarments from more than 1,900 in fiscal 2009 to more than 3,000 in fiscal 2011.

It's not just the numbers that matter. Agencies are bolstering their internal systems for dealing with companies accused of potential fraud or abuse. The 24 major executive branch agencies each now have a senior official in place to assess their suspension and debarment programs. Agencies have also formally reestablished programs and directed resources—money or employees—to managing them, Jordan wrote.

In November, then-OMB Director Jack Lew issued a memo requiring agencies to invest more in their suspension and debarment programs.

“Through this increased management attention and building capability where it did not exist before, agencies are now better equipped to protect the public from wrongdoers before critical agency resources are unnecessarily wasted,” Jordan wrote.

He added that strengthened suspension and debarment programs are just one of the ways the Obama administration “has attacked waste and abuse to get better value from our contractors.” Agencies are competing more contracts, which is another aspect of curbing waste and abuse. Jordan wrote that the amount of contract dollars competed over the last three years is at 64 percent.

Jordan's blog entry takes a slightly different tack than an address he delivered on Sept. 11 to an industry group, in which he urged a balanced approach to the government's relationships with suppliers. 

“We’ve got to continue to build the right buyer-supplier relationship. We’ve got to have the right vendor communications.” he said in that breakfast speech at an event hosted by the Coalition for Government Procurement. “It’s got to be a collaborative system, not an adversarial one.”

In other words, the government needs to “have enough cops on the beat, looking for things going wrong, but not pushing all your resources into that,” he said.

About the Author

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

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