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POGO Gets a Peek Inside FAPIIS

The Project On Government Oversight recently obtained new information about the federal government’s contractor and grantee responsibility database—the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS). POGO was a vocal advocate for the creation of FAPIIS, which was modeled on our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.

FAPIIS went live in 2010, but details about the database’s creation, operation, and impact have been scarce. A hearing last year before the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight shed some light on FAPIIS but left many questions unanswered. POGO sought to remedy this by submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the two agencies in charge of FAPIIS—the General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

GSA provided POGO with a point-by-point response letter and several documents. We discovered that support for FAPIIS is provided by a division of top 100 federal contractor ManTech International. Since fiscal year 2010, NAVSEA has contracted with ManTech Systems Engineering Corporation to maintain several contractor performance databases, including FAPIIS. Overall, the government has spent $3.7 million to develop and sustain FAPIIS.

GSA also provided the results of usability studies of the government FAPIIS site and the public FAPIIS site conducted shortly after their respective launches in 2010 and 2011. While neither site rated very highly in terms of user “effectiveness” (ability to complete a series of tasks on the database) and “efficiency” (ability to complete those tasks without error), the public FAPIIS site fared especially poorly. Most users were unable to complete all of the data retrieval tasks and found the public site’s design “very confusing” and “distracting.” The study found “extreme dissatisfaction” and a “consistently high level of discontent” with the public FAPIIS site.

The usability study findings mirror POGO’s initial assessment of the database. Since then, FAPIIS has been improved, although not to the extent we had hoped. The website’s overall design and search interface are cleaner and easier to use, and the reporting requirement for vendors has expanded. But there are still problems with the data. The site currently includes over 2,100 government-entered records (terminations, suspensions and debarments, and non-responsibility determinations) and over 700 contractor and grantee-entered records (civil, criminal, and administrative violations). A large portion of these records, however, are duplicates. In addition, some records contain inadequate descriptions. For example, some misconduct instances feature such explanations as “BILLING DISCREPANCIES”, “welding equipment”, and even “I’m not sure”.

Two of our FOIA requests are still pending. GSA referred to NAVSEA our requests for specific documents relating to FAPIIS work performed by contractors. It will be interesting to see if other contractors have been involved in the planning, development, implementation, or maintenance of FAPIIS, and whether any contractors have been called out or penalized for poor performance.