GSA Suspension and Debarments Increase
GSA recently released some interesting information regarding their process for contractor suspensions and debarments. In 2007, the GSA Inspector General issued a negative report on GSA’s Suspension and Debarment (S&D) program. At the time, the issues identified were a lack of dedicated staff, lack of appropriate skill sets for staff, and a significant case backlog. GSA put resources into fixing these issues by recruiting staff with legal training, developing detailed policies and procedures, eliminating case backlog, and instituting a digital case tracking system. The improvements were positive, as GSA’s S&D program was recognized in 2011 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as a model program for the entire federal government.
Once a case is referred, a decision is made by the Suspension and Debarment Official (SDO) to continue the process. If a contractor is proposed for debarment or suspended, the contractor is listed on the System for Award Management (SAM) and notified via writing. Contractors can then submit a response to demonstrate present responsibility and also request a meeting with the SDO. From there, the SDO makes a final decision on the action needed. There are several potential outcomes, including suspension, proposed debarment, debarment, administrative compliance agreements, or no action.
For FY2012, there were 389 total S&D actions, which represents a significant increase over FY2011. The most common outcomes for 2012 were proposals for debarment (26%), debarments (19%), and terminations (13%). Only 4% of cases resulted in no action in 2012, far less than in 2011. For 2012, the causes for debarments included theft (16%), failure to perform (11%), fraud (11%), false statements (8%), and conflict of interest (6%), among others.
Present responsibility is the most important factor for determination of the outcome of a S&D case. Present responsibility focuses on the present and future ability of a contractor to responsibly contract with the Federal Government. This includes ethics, integrity, compliance with laws, and the ability to adequately perform. Present responsibility is an overall evaluation of the contractor – not of a particular act or omission. Factors for present responsibility include: standards of conduct, voluntary disclosure, internal investigation, cooperation, restitution, disciplined employees, remedial actions implemented, ethics training, time passed, and management recognition of problems. Present responsibility is addressed via written correspondence and in meetings with GSA’s S&D officials.
Although no contractor wants to find themselves in this situation, GSA seems to have a formalized process in place to determine present responsibility and come to the right decision. It’s important to enforce ethics and have strict compliance programs in place to ensure that suspensions or debarments don’t become an issue.
To avoid suspensions and debarments, make sure your agency is complying with SDO regulations. GSA contracting companies can help your agency by offering a broad range of compliance services that quickly recognize and adapt to changes in GSA regulations. We can help you avoid unwanted scrutiny, fines, penalties, and negative press.