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Highlights

The federal government spent more than $535 billion on contracted goods and services in fiscal year 2010. One tool for ensuring that agencies are only awarding contracts to responsible sources is the use of suspensions and debarments--actions taken by agencies to exclude firms or individuals from receiving federal contracts or assistance based on various types of misconduct. This report analyzed (1) the nature and extent of governmentwide exclusions reported in the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) maintained by the General Services Administration; (2) the relationship, if any, between practices at various agencies and the level of suspensions and debarments under federal acquisition regulations; and (3) governmentwide efforts to oversee and coordinate the use of suspensions and debarments across federal agencies. GAO reviewed EPLS data and suspension and debarment programs at 10 federal agencies, including those with relatively more suspensions and debarments and those with few or none to identify differences between the two groups.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security 1. As part of ongoing efforts to establish a departmentwide program for suspensions and debarments, the Secretary of Homeland Security should take steps to ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency incorporates the characteristics we identified as common among agencies with more active programs.
Closed - Implemented
On May 31, 2012, DHS completed the transition to a Department-wide suspension and debarment policy and program with the issuance of Delegation 0200, Directive 146-01, and Instruction 146-01-001. The Delegation 0200 delegates authority to the DHS Suspension and Debarment Official to establish, maintain, supervise, and exercise oversight of the suspension and debarment program. As part of the new program, FEMA has identified a primary point person for suspension and debarment issues and has allocated resources based on the number of referrals anticipated from its investigative organizations. In addition, the new DHS program features clear, concise policies, which are set forth in the implementing directive and instruction.
Department of State 2. The Attorney General and the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, State, and the Treasury should take steps to improve their suspension and debarment programs by (1) assigning dedicated staff resources, (2) developing detailed implementing guidance, and (3) promoting the use of a case referral process.
Closed - Implemented
On October 3, 2011, the Department of State issued detailed policies and procedures for suspending or debarring contractors in its Debarment and Suspension Program Handbook. This handbook also describes the department's process for referring contractor misconduct or poor performance for consideration by the suspension and debarment official.
Department of Commerce 3. The Attorney General and the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, State, and the Treasury should take steps to improve their suspension and debarment programs by (1) assigning dedicated staff resources, (2) developing detailed implementing guidance, and (3) promoting the use of a case referral process.
Closed - Implemented
In response to GAO's recommendations, Commerce has created a Suspension and Debarment Coordinator function as an additional duty that will be the administrative point of contact to ensure the processes and procedures are followed and referrals are processed in a timely manner. The Suspension and Debarment Official has also initiated a standing monthly meeting with the Office of Inspector General and Office of General Counsel to ensure regular communication and active management of the program. In addition, Commerce is in the process of developing detailed implementing guidance and recognized that suspension and debarment referrals may originate from a number of sources including program offices, bureaus, acquisition and grant personnel, and the Office of the Inspector General.
Department of the Treasury 4. The Attorney General and the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, State, and the Treasury should take steps to improve their suspension and debarment programs by (1) assigning dedicated staff resources, (2) developing detailed implementing guidance, and (3) promoting the use of a case referral process.
Closed - Implemented
In 2012, Treasury established a suspension and debarment advisor position, and issued a policy and procedures directive on suspension and debarments. In 2013, Treasury established a suspension and debarment council consisting of members from procurement offices, the Office of the General Counsel, and three offices of the Inspector General. Additionally, Treasury took steps to facilitate an increase in the number of referrals. These steps included establishment of intake forms on Treasury.gov's Waste Fraud and Abuse website for reporting fraud or misconduct related to government contracting or grants; and increased training via webinars and print media to reach out to the contracting officer representatives across Treasury.
Office of Federal Procurement Policy 5. In addition, to improve suspension and debarment programs at all agencies and enhance governmentwide oversight, the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy should issue governmentwide guidance that (1) describes the elements of an active suspension and debarment program, and (2) emphasizes the importance of cooperating with the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC) in terms of (1) helping to resolve lead agency issues, (2) providing required reporting information in a timely manner, and (3) designating existing resources as needed to enable the committee to function effectively.
Closed - Implemented
In response to GAO's recommendation, on November 15, 2011, OMB directed the departments and agencies that are subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act to appoint a senior official who shall be responsible for, among other things, assessing the agency's suspension and debarment program, including the adequacy of available training and resources (including, where appropriate, full-time staff). OMB also directed that this official ensure that the agency participates regularly on the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC).
Department of Health and Human Services 6. The Attorney General and the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, State, and the Treasury should take steps to improve their suspension and debarment programs by (1) assigning dedicated staff resources, (2) developing detailed implementing guidance, and (3) promoting the use of a case referral process.
Closed - Implemented
In response to GAO's recommendation, HHS created the Office of Recipient Integrity Coordination that reports to the Suspension and Debarment Official (SDO) and dedicated three full-time staff positions to this office. This office is intended to increase coordination between the Office of Inspector General and the SDO, ensure that the policies and procedures are implemented, and provide training resources. HHS has also developed detailed policies and procedures and these are complemented by an electronic desk reference webpage that implements the new policy and provides HHS staff with associated reference materials and uniform decision-making tools regarding referrals for suspension and debarments. To promote case referrals, the revised policies and practices will be reinforced through communication and training to ensure the HHS communities understand their responsibilities, and are able to identify and refer cases of fraud, misconduct, and poor performance.
Department of Justice 7. The Attorney General and the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, State, and the Treasury should take steps to improve their suspension and debarment programs by (1) assigning dedicated staff resources, (2) developing detailed implementing guidance, and (3) promoting the use of a case referral process.
Closed - Implemented
On January 30, 2012, The Attorney General issued a memorandum emphasizing the importance of the coordination of Parallel Criminal, Civil, Regulatory, and Administrative Proceedings, further on February 1, 2012, the Senior Procurement Executive in a memorandum to its Procurement Chiefs emphasized the suspension and debarment as a powerful administrative tool and summarized the law and the Department's procedures that govern suspensions and debarments. In addition, the Department has identified, assigned, and aligned all of its suspension and debarment activities under one Division.

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