The Project On Government Oversight’s General Counsel, Scott Amey, testified today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY). The full committee hearing was entitled “How Convicts and Con Artists Receive New Federal Contracts,” focused on the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS), a federal database intended to prevent persons and businesses ineligible to receive federal contracts due to past misconduct from receiving new awards.
“Many acquisition reforms implemented by Congress, particularly in the 1990s, are not all they were intended to be. The problems created by the reforms became starkly apparent after the beginning of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Those events showed that contacting decisions were placing taxpayers’ dollars— and sometimes lives— at risk,” testified Mr. Amey.
Government contracting dollars spiraled to over $530 billion in fiscal year 2008, while oversight has decreased, the acquisition workforce has been stretched thin, and spending on services has outpaced spending on goods.
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) stipulates “purchases shall be made from, and contracts awarded to, responsible prospective contractors only.” FAR requires contracting officers to consult the EPLS, a list of contractors suspended or debarred from receiving future government contracts. According to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, in Fiscal Year 2007 there were only 4,296 suspensions or debarments of contractors and individuals, down from 9,900 in FY 2005.
Citing the Government Accountability Office’s report released today, Mr. Amey said, “It is outrageous to think that contactors know their way around the system and often reorganize under a different name so as to avoid detection. The result is that suspended and debarred contractors are continuing to receive new contract awards.”
Other panelists included: Gregory Kutz, managing director for forensic audits and special investigations at the Government Accountability Office; James Williams, commissioner of the General Services Administration Federal Acquisition Service; David Drabkin, acting chief acquisition officer and senior procurement executive at the General Services Administration; Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement Edward Harrington; Michael Jaggard, chief of staff/policy for the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Acquisition and Logistics Management; and Frederic Levy of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.