Acquisition councils create database to track contractor misdeeds

By Elizabeth Newell Jochum

March 23, 2010

Civilian and defense acquisition councils on Tuesday published a final rule launching a comprehensive database for information on contractor integrity, conduct and past performance.

The Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, required under the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, will be "designed to improve the government's ability to evaluate the business ethics and expected performance quality of prospective contractors and protect the government from awarding contracts to contractors that are not responsible sources," the Federal Register rule stated. The General Services Administration will manage the database, effective April 22.

It will provide one-stop access to the Excluded Parties List System and Past Performance Information Retrieval System, nonresponsibility determinations, contract terminations for cause or default, defective pricing determinations, and self-reporting of criminal convictions and civil liabilities. Under the new rule, FAPIIS will cull this information from existing databases, contracting officers, suspension and debarment officials and the contractors themselves.

The Civilian Agency Acquisition and Defense Acquisition Regulations councils said eventually the database will include performance information for state contracts, but that won't be added until a later phase of FAPIIS.

"The councils had concerns that the challenges of collecting state government information, such as establishing a reporting format that is consistent across state governments, could not be resolved without delaying this rule-making," the announcement said. "In addition to working out an appropriate plan for collecting state information, the councils will explore the feasibility of collecting local government information."

The councils and the Office of Management and Budget also are considering issuing a proposed rule to expand the database's reach by lowering the threshold of contracts that trigger FAPIIS reporting and expanding the scope of reporting to include illegal activities that aren't directly related to contracts and grants.

Companies will be notified when the government adds to their FAPIIS records and will have the opportunity to post comments that will remain with the entry unless the company revises them.

The FAPIIS launch is part of a larger Obama administration push to increase the extent to which contractor integrity and past performance weigh into the award process, according to the rule.

"Improved interagency access to these assessments will motivate better performance and reduce the likelihood that taxpayer resources will go to contractors with poor track records in meeting the government's requirements in an efficient and effective manner," the announcement stated. "FAPIIS is intended to significantly enhance the scope of information available to contracting officers as they evaluate the integrity and performance of prospective contractors."

The rule requires contracting officers to review the information in FAPIIS before making awards over a certain size, document how they used the information and notify relevant officials if database entries seem to warrant suspension or debarment.

The Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, called the database an improvement, but said it should be open to the public.

"The database was improved, but the administration really missed a golden opportunity to promote its good government and openness agendas," said Scott Amey, POGO's general counsel. "POGO wanted to see a system with real teeth to protect taxpayers from risky contractors, but instead contractors received a shield to protect them from public scrutiny. If the government is serious about improving federal spending accountability, it just missed its chance to prove it."


By Elizabeth Newell Jochum

March 23, 2010

http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2010/03/acquisition-councils-create-database-to-track-contractor-misdeeds/31119/