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Highlights

Federal government purchases of contracted goods and services have grown to more than $300 billion annually. To protect the government's interests, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provides that agencies can suspend or debar contractors for causes affecting present responsibility--such as serious failure to perform to the terms of a contract. The FAR provides flexibility to agencies in developing a suspension or debarment process. GAO was asked to (1) describe the general guidance on the suspension and debarment process and how selected agencies have implemented the process, and (2) identify any needed improvements in the suspension and debarment process. We examined the FAR and the regulations of 24 agencies that have FAR supplements governing suspension and debarment procedures. We selected 6 defense and civilian agencies representing about 67 percent of fiscal year 2003 federal contract spending for in-depth review.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
General Services Administration 1. To improve the effectiveness of the suspension and debarment process, the Administrator of General Services should modify the EPLS database to require contractor identification numbers for all actions entered into the system.
Closed - Implemented
GSA has agreed with GAO's recommendation and is in the process of modifying the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) software to require contractor identification numbers for all actions entered into the system. To ensure the quality of contractor identification data, the modified system will interface with Central Contractor Registration. GSA provided a copy of the action plan for EPLS, and reported that the system is in the process of obtaining its Certification & Accreditation. In September 2006, GSA implemented its new version of EPLS, which requires agencies, among other things, to enter contractors' unique identification number for for each firm, business and organization entered into the system. This action makes available in EPLS the information needed to identify contractors in order to verify whether a contractor has been suspended or debarred.
Office of Management and Budget 2. To improve the effectiveness of the suspension and debarment process, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should require agencies to collect and report data on administrative agreements and compelling reason determinations to the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee and ensure that these data are available to all suspension and debarment officials.
Closed - Implemented
OMB and the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Council (ISDC) have taken some steps to address this recommendation. On August 31, 2006, OMB issued a memo to agency heads, and in June 2008, an OMB representative explained the current process that agency officials notify a member of the ISDC to report administrative agreements and compelling reason determinations. The 2009 National Defense Authorization Act requires the General Services Administration to construct a database on contractor past performance subject to the direction of OMB, and OMB plans to determine whether collection of administrative agreement and compelling reason determination data will be best accomplished through the use of this database or through some other method.

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