Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding a hearing provocatively titled “How Convicts and Con Artists Receive New Federal Contracts.” POGO's General Counsel, Scott Amey, will be testifying at the day-long hearing.
The subject of the hearing is a new report that will be released later today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that federal agencies continue to award business to contractors even after they have been suspended or debarred as a result of criminal violations or poor performance. Congress is worried that these so-called "convicts and con artists" will not be excluded from the billions of dollars in contracts that will be awarded under the $787 billion economic stimulus program.
The Excluded Parties List System (EPLS), a federal database of suspended and debarred individuals and businesses, is supposed to prevent these parties from receiving any future federal contracts. However, the GAO found numerous instances when they continued to receive new contracts due to flaws in the database and inadequate contracting procedures. Many of these parties were debarred for egregious violations that directly threatened national security and the safety of U.S. troops and citizens.
The GAO report found that contracting officials are either not checking the EPLS as they are required, or are checking it but are not aware that certain individuals or companies are in it due to a flawed database search system. When agencies suspend or debar parties from future contracts, they often enter them in the EPLS without a unique identifying number. This requires users to search by name, which invariably misses nicknames, aliases, or corporate name changes.
UPDATE: The GAO report is now available here.