Debarment Report Shows How Some Agencies Use it Well

Six agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor, had zero suspension and debarment cases during the past five fiscal years, GAO’s report states.

The federal government uses a practice named suspension and debarment to exclude firms or individuals from receiving contracts to provide goods or services if they have engaged in certain crimes, such as bribery or tax evasion, or violated certain statutes or regulations. A new Government Accountability Office report says four agencies use the process more effectively than others because they employ full-time staff, have detailed policies and procedures, and encourage an active referral process.

Fortunately, the four doing it right, according to the report, include the General Services Administration, which manages thousands of federal buildings and thus buys a great many contracted goods and services. The other three are the U.S. Navy, the Defense Logistics Agency, and DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit, known as ICE.

Six agencies aren't using suspension and debarment at all -– at least, they had zero cases during the past five fiscal years, according to GAO's "Suspension and Debarment: Some Agency Programs Need Greater Attention, and Governmentwide Oversight Could Be Improved" report, which was posted Nov. 16. The six are the Departments of Labor, HHS, Commerce, Education, and HUD and the Office of Personnel Management.

The Department of Defense accounted for about two-thirds of all suspension and debarment cases related to federal procurements for fiscal years 2006 through 2010, with almost 1,600 cases, the report shows. Almost 70 percent of agencies using the process had fewer than 20 suspension and debarment cases during the period.

The report's summary notes that suspensions and debarments can be powerful tools to help ensure the government awards contracts and grants only to responsible sources. "Some agencies could benefit from adopting the practices we identified as common among agencies that have more active suspension and debarment programs. Because agency missions and organizational structures are unique, each agency must determine for itself the extent to which it can benefit from adopting these practices," it says.

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