Suspension and Debarment: Some Agency Programs Need Greater Attention, and Governmentwide Oversight Could Be Improved

GAO-12-127T Published: Oct 06, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 06, 2011.
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This testimony discusses the Federal government's use of suspensions and debarments. In 2010, spending on contracted goods and services was more than $535 billion. To protect the government's interests, federal agencies are required to award contracts only to responsible sources--those that are determined to be reliable, dependable, and capable of performing required work. One way to do so is through the use of suspensions and debarments, which are actions taken to exclude firms or individuals from receiving contracts or assistance based on various types of misconduct. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) prescribes overall policies and procedures governing the suspension and debarment of contractors by agencies and directs agencies to establish appropriate procedures to implement them. This flexibility enables each agency to establish a suspension and debarment program suitable to its mission and structure. Even though the FAR specifies numerous causes for suspensions and debarments, including fraud, theft, bribery, tax evasion, or lack of business integrity, the existence of one of these does not necessarily require that the party be suspended or debarred. Agencies are to establish procedures for prompt reporting, investigation, and referral to the agency suspension and debarment official. Parties that are suspended, proposed for debarment, or debarred are precluded from receiving new contracts, and agencies must not solicit offers from, award contracts to, or consent to subcontracts with these parties, unless an agency head determines that there is a compelling reason for such action. Today, we are publicly releasing a report that addresses (1) the nature and extent of governmentwide exclusions reported in the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA); (2) the relationship between practices at selected 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. This statement will highlight the key findings and recommendations of our report.

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