Holding the Government Accountable

A Tale of Two Recommendations

Over the years, the D.C. area has grown used to dashed hopes: the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards, and just about every politician since the Sixth Congress moved here from Philadelphia in 1800 has shown great promise with less-than-great results.

With yesterday's Goverment Accountability Office report: "Additional Data Reporting Could Improve the Suspension and Debarment Process," we were careful not to get too excited given our astute historical knowledge of the region.

POGO has been arguing this point for some years now: the suspension and debarment process is horribly flawed, we need more inter-agency communication, and Contracting Officers (COs) need to look more closely at the track records of corporations before deciding responsibility. This is why POGO came up with its Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (soon to be seriously revamped and updated). Initially, POGO hoped the government would take over this project and have a centralized source of information for COs to look to for deciding responsibility issues. This clearly has not happened, but when we saw this GAO report POGO let out a collective gasp: "Could this be it?" Nope.

Unfortunately, GAO's effort doesn't go far enough. Two recommendations are made:

1) identification numbers should be required in the Excluded Party List System (EPLS is a database which simply gives the names of contractors who can't do business with the government); and

2) administrative agreements need to be shared between agencies.

But, why just nibble around the edges when you can take a big bite out of the center? POGO recommends that the government also collect and publish information that would help to inform its decisions about whether contractors are responsible; specifically data on criminal, civil, and administrative actions involving contractors. Our database would be a great starting point for COs in deciding from whom the government should buy goods and services as well as a wonderful tool for preventing taxpayer dollars from going to irresponsible contractors with a track record of misconduct.