The Federal Government pays over a trillion dollars a year to contractors and grantees, and has an ongoing fiduciary responsibility to protect American taxpayer resources and the integrity of the processes for Federal acquisition and for discretionary assistance, loan, and benefit programs.
The suspension and debarment remedy is one of the tools available for protecting taxpayer resources and the integrity of these processes from those contractors and recipients who are "non-responsible" (i.e. who lack business integrity because they have engaged in dishonest or illegal conduct or are otherwise unable to satisfactorily perform their responsibilities. The basic policies and procedures governing suspension and debarment in FAR 9.4 and are well-established and generally sound.
Suspension and debarment are similar but the time periods during which contractors are not eligible to contract with the Government differ. Suspension typically lasts twelve to 18 months. Debarment lasts up to three years. For more information on suspension and debarment, read our 4-part series from last July (Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV).
Some Federal agencies have long-standing and robust suspension and debarment programs. However, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), many have failed to adequately use the suspension and debarment tools at their disposal or have failed even to maintain the most basic program capabilities required to suspend or debar non-responsible parties. A recent report by GAO found that fifty percent of agencies reviewed lacked the characteristics common among active and effective suspension and debarment programs; dedicated staff resources, well developed internal guidance, and processes for referring cases to officials for action. The OMB believes these deficiencies have put taxpayer resources at unnecessary risk of waste, fraud, and abuse.
To remedy this situation, OMB, this month, directed every Federal agency to take a series of actions including the appointment of a senior official to oversee the program, beef up internal policies and procedures, make sure contracting officers are reviewing relevant suspension and debarment databases before making awards, and fixing the things that don't work.