Committee Advances Contractor Suspension and Debarment Reforms

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md.,left, and Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced the bill. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md.,left, and Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced the bill. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

This story has been updated. 

A House panel on Tuesday passed by voice vote a bill to crack down on unscrupulous contractors by consolidating agency suspension and debarment offices.

H.R. 3345 -- the Stop Unworthy Spending Act -- introduced Monday by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., would attempt to confront the $1 trillion that the Government Accountability Office has estimated the government spends on contracts and grants to individuals and companies who may be criminals or poor performers.

“The current process for keeping taxpayer dollars out of the hands of criminals, tax evaders, and the chronically incompetent is stove-piped, fractured, and inadequate,” Issa said. “While the vast majority of contractors and grantees fulfill their obligations, the SUSPEND Act streamlines the procedures for dealing with the ones that do not.”

The bill has been circulated since February in draft among academics and “stakeholders” for refinement.

It would consolidate more than 40 executive agency suspension and debarment offices into one centralized board, though larger agencies could continue to operate their own offices if they demonstrate effectiveness. The board would track cases governmentwide.

The bill also would “require agency leadership to work with their Office of Inspector General to ensure agency-wide coordination of remedies for fraud and corruption related to procurement and grant activities, with an emphasis on timely recovery of funds,” according to a press release. And it would mandate an expedited review process “to handle contract or grant fraud in a contingency or time-sensitive environment, in both military and non-military settings.

Finally, to help ensure “consistency and transparency,” it would combine two separate suspension and debarment regulations governing contracts and grants into a single regulation.

Contractor groups have argued that suspension and debarment too often is used to punish companies without due process.

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