Obama Administration Plan to Open Contractor Database to Public Fails to Provide Full Access to Responsibility Histories
The Obama administration’s plan to provide public access to a database tracking contractor and grantee responsibility performance falls short of the transparency the president had promised, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said today.
The interim rule (.pdf) for the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) continues to keep important information about past contractor misconduct out of the public’s view, said Scott Amey, POGO’s general counsel.
“The FAPIIS interim rule just shows how the administration is caving in to contractors,” Amey said. “This whole process has been an exercise in foot dragging and concealment of information rather than increasing transparency. Despite the new law passed last summer making FAPIIS public, government officials have proceeded too timidly—asking permission at each step—before making public the information about trillions of tax dollars spent on contracts and grants each year.”
Although the database will premiere sometime after April 15, the public will have to wait until contractors file semi-annual reports later this year before seeing the full extent of FAPIIS. Until that time, FAPIIS information will only be available via the Freedom of Information Act, subject to objections raised by contractors pursuant to Executive Order 12600.
FAPIIS provides government officials with information needed to make informed pre-award contracting and grant decisions. The system allows the government to avoid risky contractors and grantees, especially those with repeated histories of misconduct or poor performance.
All FAPIIS data, including past performance information not directly implicating genuine proprietary or privacy interests, should be publicly posted to enhance contractor and grantee accountability and transparency. Despite public access to FAPIIS, past performance information will be concealed. Furthermore, industry is lining up with arguments for a number of additional types of information to be withheld from the public.
FAPIIS, which is based on POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, was created through the leadership of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), as well as the bipartisan work of Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), and Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the provision that provides public access to FAPIIS.
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.