We're working our way through a couple of "effective" tools the Government has at its disposal to exclude or preclude certain firms from doing business with the Government. In Parts I and II, we discussed "suspensions" where the Government can suspend a company for up to 18 months, In Part III, we discussed the causes that can lead to "debarment" for up to three years. In this part, we will discuss the procedures set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulations that the Government must follow when debarring or contemplating debarment and some other aspects. We will conclude this series on Monday with ways that contractors can avoid suspension and debarment (its not that hard).
Each Federal agency has established procedures governing the debarment decision making process that are as informal as is practicable, consistent with principles of fundamental fairness. These procedures must afford the contractor an opportunity to submit, in person, in writing, or through a representative, information and argument in opposition to the proposed debarment.
If the Government decides to proceed with the debarment action, it sends a notice of proposed debarment to the contractor giving the reasons for the proposed debarment in terms sufficient to put the contractor on notice of the conduct or transactions upon which it is based. The contractor has 30 days to submit information and argument in opposition to the proposed debarment, including any additional specific information that raises a genuine dispute over the material facts. The debarring official will consider this information and also the remedial and the same mitigating factors we discussed earlier when we discussed "suspensions". At this point, the debarring official can call the whole thing off or proceed with the final notice.
FAR gives some latitude over how long a debarment period should last. It must be for a period commensurate with the seriousness of the causes. Generally it should not be for a period exceeding three years. If the debarment is based on violations of the Drug Free Workplace Act, the period is extended to five years. The debarring official can extend the period for an additional period if that official determines that an extension is necessary to protect the Government's interest.
A debarred contractor cannot receive a contract from any executive agency and, based on reciprocity agreements, with many states as well. Debarred contractors are identified in the Government's "Excluded Parties" list that all contracting officers must refer to prior to awarding contracts.