Agencies suspending, debarring contractors more than ever

Friday - 5/23/2014, 4:00pm EDT

By Stephanie Wasko
Special to Federal News Radio

Agency suspensions and debarments have hit record highs since being pressured by the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee three years ago.

The Government Accountability Office reported this week that suspension and debarment actions have more than doubled since 2009 governmentwide. Agencies also have made significant reforms to improve their referral, suspension and debarment processes.

Total number of suspension and debarment actions
200919
201019
2011104
2012138
2013271
Source: GAO presentation of agency data reported to the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee.

Note: Total number of suspension and debarment actions includes procurement and nonprocurement-related suspensions, proposed

GAO studied six agencies and the progress in their suspension and debarment systems. GAO initiated the study as follow up on the recommendations given by ISDC three years ago. The study followed the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Justice, State and Treasury, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. GAO reported total suspension and debarment actions across these agencies increased from 19 in 2009 to 271 in 2013.

In June 2011, the ISDC stated, "suspension and debarment are the government's most powerful tools to protect taxpayers from entities who engage in dishonest or illegal conduct or are otherwise unable to satisfactorily perform their responsibilities."

That same year, GAO reviewed the suspension and debarment policies of 10 agencies. It found the four agencies with the most reported suspensions and debarments also had detailed policies, active referral processes and dedicated staff within their suspension and debarment programs. GAO found the other six agencies lacking in both suspension and debarment actions and well-structured systems.

In October 2011, the Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to "address weaknesses and reinforce best practices in their suspension and debarment programs."

GAO followed the actions of the six departments — Commerce, HHS, Justice, State, Treasury and FEMA — which did not demonstrate well-used suspension and debarment programs for the 2014 report. It found these agencies had "addressed staffing issues through actions such as defining roles and responsibilities, adding positions, and consolidating the suspension and debarment function into one office. The six agencies also have taken actions such as issuing formal policy and promulgating detailed guidance. Finally, the six agencies have engaged in practices that encourage an active referral process, including establishing positions to ensure cases are referred, developing case management tools that allow for referral tracking and case reporting, and establishing training programs."

The study stated, "According to ISDC officials, the programmatic improvements made by many agencies are due in part to increased management attention within individual agencies, guidance from OMB, and support from the ISDC."

OMB stated it was content with the improvements and increased suspension and debarment actions.

Stephanie Wasko is an intern for Federal News Radio

RELATED STORIES:

Suspension, debarment a 'business decision' for agencies

Suspension and debarments rise amid pressure from Congress

Push for more suspension, debarments receives mixed reactions

Agencies more aggressive in suspending, debarring contractors