April has been a busy month for improving contracting accountability in the federal government.
On the eve of tax day, the House passed a bill to prevent contractor tax cheats from receiving large federal contracts and grants (H.R. 4881). The following day, the House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement held a hearing on H.R. 5712, which would require all contractors--including those working overseas--to report criminal violations. Failure to do so would result in suspension or debarment from future government contracts. Although regulatory efforts are also being considered to close the reporting loopholes for overseas and commercial contracts, the Hill decided it might have to force such action.
After the GAO released its 17th report since 2001 detailing vulnerabilities in the government's purchase card program, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued a memo reminding agencies to reduce the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse, and to discipline employees for charge card misuse. There is also legislation pending, so let's hope that taxpayers will no longer have to foot the bill for trips to Vegas, dinners at posh restaurants, or cosmetic surgery. An organization can hope, ya know!
Recently, we also saw EPA officials go blow for blow with critics who questioned the agency's decision to suspend IBM from federal contracting. Although the suspension only lasted seven days, the EPA concluded that it had all of the evidence it needed to protect taxpayers against contractor misconduct. Interestingly, some of the same critics who questioned the EPA's actions have also accused POGO and others of demoralizing federal workers when we question government activities. Not a sermon, just a thought.
One release that received little attention was the PCIE/ECIE report to the President, which revealed that Inspectors General activities in 2007 saved taxpayers $16.5 billion and led to more than 10,000 successful criminal prosecutions and civil actions.
Of course, you'll have a tough time finding information on these accountability efforts at smartcontracting.org, a new site created by the Professional Services Council, a national trade association representing the government professional and technical services industry. The site is meant to "communicate the benefits and clear up the major misperceptions about contracting" and to serve as a "clearinghouse for reliable information on these important issues." But seeing as the site doesn't include much information on the reports mentioned above or the recent actions to improve the contracting system, it would appear that PSC is only interested in showing the world of contracting from the eyes of its very interested members.
H.R. 3033: you're on deck for the contracting hot seat.