Tens of billions of dollars are being lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan because of a toothless U.S. contracting system so reliant on a handful of major contractors that it rarely suspends or desbars them, even when those companies have committed serious offenses, according to the Project On Government Oversight’s (POGO) testimony today before a independent, federal commission.
“Continuing to award contracts to such companies undermines the public’s confidence in the fair-play process and exacerbates distrust in our government,” Scott Amey, POGO’s general counsel, told the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The federal government is shirking its responsibility to protect its constituents, the American public, by not vetting contractors to determine whether they are truly responsible.”
Amey outlined steps the government could take to improve accountability, including making all paperwork produced during the contracting process available to the public on the Internet, expanding the amount of information included on the government’s new Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), and upgrading the training provided to contracting officers.
Far too often, the federal government allows speed and convenience to trump accountability and oversight. In some cases, the government declines to suspend or debar major contractors because of the belief it would greatly lessen competition. In other cases, even when companies are sanctioned, it doesn’t prevent them from continuing to win contracts. In 2009, the Government Accountability Office found 25 instances in which companies and individuals suspended or debarred for committing serious offenses were awarded new contracts, Amey said.
Congress created the commission in 2008 to examine contingency contracting for reconstruction, logistics, and security functions, and to recommend improvements. Its final report to Congress is due in July.
To learn more, read:
Deficient Contractor Accountability Leaves Agencies and Taxpayers at Risk, testimony of Scott Amey, February 28, 2011.