Excluded Parties List System:
Suspended and Debarred Businesses and Individuals Improperly Receive Federal Funds
GAO-09-419T: Published: Feb 26, 2009. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 2009.
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In July 2005, GAO reported that the data in EPLS were insufficient to enable agencies to determine with confidence that a prospective vendor was not currently excluded. In response, GSA agreed to modify EPLS's data requirements to include a mandatory provision that agencies enter a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number to facilitate the identification of excluded parties. Despite such modifications, recent allegations indicate that businesses or individuals that have been excluded for egregious offenses have been able to "resurface" under the same or a different business name or identity in order to continue to receive federal contracts and other funds. We described the results of our investigation confirming these allegations in our recently issued report. This testimony will summarize our overall findings and will also describe the key causes of the improper awards and other payments we detected.
We confirmed the allegations that businesses and individuals that were excluded for egregious offenses were continuing to receive federal contracts. Specifically, we developed case studies on businesses and individuals that were awarded funds despite being suspended or debarred for a variety of offenses, ranging from national security violations to illegal dumping of chemicals to tax fraud. These excluded parties received funding in part because agency officials failed to search EPLS or because their searches did not reveal the exclusions as a result of system deficiencies. We also identified additional cases involving businesses and individuals that were able to fraudulently circumvent the terms of their exclusions by operating under different identities and one case where the Army chose to continue doing business with an excluded party despite its debarment. Most of the improper contracts and payments we identified can be attributed to ineffective management of the EPLS database or to control weaknesses at both excluding and procuring agencies. Our cases and analyses of EPLS data demonstrate that no single agency is proactively monitoring the content or function of the database and that agencies are not consistently inputting timely or accurate data related to the parties they exclude. Specifically, our work shows that EPLS entries may contain incomplete information, the database has insufficient search capabilities, and the listed points of contact for further information about exclusions are incorrect.