Report Shows Continued Growth in Suspensions and Debarments

Last week, the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC) released its report to Congress on the state of the federal suspension and debarment system in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The Project On Government Oversight blogged about the committee’s FY 2011 findings in September 2012.

Once again, the debarment committee found that the federal government’s use of suspension and debarment actions continues to rise. Twenty-seven federal agencies and departments reported a total of 4,639 suspensions, proposed debarments, and debarments in FY 2012 and 4,812 in FY 2013. Last year’s total represents a 12 percent increase over FY 2011 and a 262 percent increase over FY 2009, the first year for which the committee collected data.

Once again, the Department of Defense (specifically, the Air Force, Army, Defense Logistics Agency, and Navy) had the most actions. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Social Security Administration, and Department of Labor reported no suspensions, proposed debarments, debarments, or administrative agreements in FY 2012 and 2013. The Office of Personnel Management reported zero actions in FY 2012 and only two proposed debarments in FY 2013.

However, the committee has an important caveat to keep in mind:

The ISDC does not consider the overall number of suspensions and debarments as a metric of success, as the appropriate level of discretionary suspension and debarment activity in any given year is purely a function of circumstance and need. Instead, the ISDC encourages its individual member agencies—who are most knowledgeable about their agency’s mission and capabilities—to review their own individual trends to determine if the level of activity is reflective of what is necessary to protect their agency and the government from harm.

Unlike the last report, the most recent suspension and debarment report includes the number of suspension and debarment referrals and declinations (referrals on which the agency does not take any action). The committee found a total of 3,715 referrals and 203 declinations for FY 2012 and 3,942 referrals and 154 declinations for FY 2013. Referrals have more than tripled since FY 2009, while the percentage being declined is shrinking (from 9.5 percent in FY 2009 to 4 percent last year). Referrals, according to the committee, come from four main sources: “contracting officers/contracting personnel,” “other agency personnel/whistleblowers,” “outside sources,” and “Office of Inspector General.”

“While there is more to be done,” the report concludes, “agencies are taking steps, with the support and active assistance of the ISDC, to enhance suspension and debarment programs to better protect the Government from fraud, waste and abuse.” The committee has also taken steps in this regard. In addition to the re-inclusion of referral and declination data, the committee recently launched its very own website.