General Services Administration
FOIA Requester Service Center (ACMC)
1800 F Street, NW, Room 3116
Washington, DC 20405
Sent by Facsimile: (202) 501-2727
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request
Dear FOIA Officer:
I have included this FOIA Fee Waiver Supplement to provide a detailed account of POGO’s planned use of the requested information and to fully respond to GSA’s fee waiver criteria governed by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 41 C.F.R. § 105–60.305–13.
(1) Describe the purpose for which the requester intends to use the requested information.
POGO is an independent nonprofit organization that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more accountable federal government. As such, POGO has a keen interest in government contracting matters, especially matters related to the promulgation of federal acquisition laws, regulations, or guidance that will expand and improve upon the contracting system.
Since 2002, POGO has created and maintained a Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (http://www.contractormisconduct.org), which lists criminal, civil, and administrative instances of misconduct for the top federal contractors. POGO believes that such data improves contracting decisions and provides the public insight into how the government spends hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars each year on goods and services. Until the creation of the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), there was no benchmark outlined in FAR Subpart 9.104-1(d) or elsewhere that allows a government official to review a contractor’s record of integrity or business ethics as required by law. As a result, genuine responsibility determinations could not be made, thereby increasing the likelihood that taxpayer dollars are being awarded to nonresponsible entities in violation of the law.
POGO will use the requested documents to study and highlight the government’s efforts to record accurate, timely, and informative criminal, civil, and administrative responsibility and performance information about federal contractors. POGO also hopes that the responsive records highlight how government contract awards are made and how those decisions protect the public from contracting with nonresponsible contractors in violation of the law.
(2) Explain how the requested records concern "the operations or activities of the Government."
FAPIIS is designed to improve the government’s ability to evaluate the business ethics and expected performance quality of prospective contractors and protect the government and taxpayers from awarding contracts to contractors that are not responsible sources. Both contractors and contracting officers are required to enter data into FAPIIS, which must be used by contracting officers when making a responsibility determination prior to awarding a federal contract. FAPIIS information as well as the subsequent contract award decisions impact the way the federal government awards over $530 billion each year on goods and services.
(3) How is the disclosure "likely to contribute" to an understanding of Government operations or activities.
POGO has been studying federal contracting for many years. Over the years, we have learned that procurement laws and regulations are very complex. Those laws and regulations are often confused and misinterpreted by contracting officials, Congress, the media, and the public. The requested records will help POGO expose how the federal contracting system works and government attempts to promote a contracting system based on integrity, fairness, and value for the government and taxpayers.
The requested records are intended to contribute to the public’s understanding of how the government is choosing contractors and ensuring that it is contracting with responsible contractor only. The public has no information about how the government chooses contractors, especially those that have records of nonresponsibility. The release of the requested records will illustrate the government’s adherence to contracting responsibility laws and regulations.
(4) Describe whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to the "public’s understanding."
Throughout its twenty-nine-year history, POGO has created a niche in investigating, exposing, and helping to remedy waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending. One of POGO ’s most celebrated investigations uncovered outrageously overpriced military spare parts such as the $7,600 coffee maker and the $436 hammer. Since that time, particularly in the 1990s, many acquisition reforms have been implemented. The reforms, however, have been questioned and numerous attempts have been made to improve the contracting system. Recent events have shown that contracting decisions are placing taxpayer dollars – and sometimes lives – at risk. At the same time, the media and the public jump at the first rumors about government contracts without insight into the deal.
POGO disseminates information about its activities to thousands of concerned citizens, policymakers, and the media via email, direct mail, and its web site http://www.pogo.org, which receives more than 500,000 hits monthly. Additionally, POGO has a blog that receives approximately 10,000 page views each month. The information provided by GSA will be used in an original format for the following activities: publication by email, on our website, in reports, and newsletters issued by POGO and disseminated to the public, the media, POGO supporters, nonprofit organizations, Congress, Executive Branch officials, and other policymakers.
The requested records will contribute to the public’s understanding because currently the public has little information about how the government awards contracts. POGO’s independent review of FAPIIS will focus on how the government is making contract award decisions, especially in instances when a contractor has a history that is recorded in FAPIIS. The law requires contracts to be awarded to responsible contractors only and POGO hopes that the responsive records, which are not publicly posted on any government website, will highlight the government’s efforts to avoid risky contractors.
(5) Describe any commercial or private interest the requester or any other party has in the agency records sought.
POGO has no commercial financial interest in the requested information. POGO does not charge for access to its web site, investigative reports, newsletters, or other publications.
Please contact me if this request requires further clarification. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Scott H. Amey