Critical Read

Feds doing a better job of sorting out bad contractors

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."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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