GSA revamps list of contractors banned from federal business

The General Services Administration on Monday announced plans to overhaul its database of private companies barred from federal work due to misconduct.

Federal agencies can suspend or debar contractors for various types of misconduct, including fraud, embezzlement and forgery. Suspension is temporary, while debarment can last three years or longer. GSA maintains an "excluded parties" database listing suspended or debarred companies.

But advocacy groups and some lawmakers say the list is not very useful to agencies because it lacks historical information on administrative or court proceedings against companies and any resulting suspensions or debarments. The database is also difficult to navigate, according to critics.

Under regulations proposed in the Dec. 1 Federal Register, agencies would enter information about suspended or debarred contractors directly onto the list, which GSA maintains. This would cut down on inaccuracies, since the data would not travel through as many hands, and would also ensure that the database contains more timely information, GSA officials said.

Currently it takes up to seven days for information from some agencies to be reflected on the list, according to GSA spokeswoman Mary Alice Johnson. The data travels by mail in some cases, and once it reaches GSA, it sits in a queue until an employee there has a chance to enter it.

About 30 agencies, including the Justice, Education, Transportation and State departments and the Army, Air Force and Defense Logistics Agency, already enter data directly into GSA's excluded parties list, Johnson said. But the draft regulations would make the practice mandatory at all agencies.

In addition, the proposed changes would increase the variety of data GSA shares with agencies, and would make the database more user-friendly. Agencies would be able to search GSA's files by entering in a contractor's name or the Social Security number of an individual bidding on government work.

The revamped excluded parties list also would include information about contractors' past exclusions from government work, Johnson said. Currently, procurement workers must file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain this data, according to the Federal Register notice.

These changes address some concerns expressed by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a nonprofit watchdog group, about the excluded parties list. POGO, which maintains its own database to track lawsuits initiated against large contractors, contends that without access to reliable and thorough information on contractor misconduct, agencies cannot make informed decisions when awarding work to private companies.

The proposed changes would represent an improvement over the current system because they streamline the process of updating the database, make it more user-friendly, and give agencies access to information on companies' past wrongdoings, said Danielle Brian, POGO's executive director.

But "tinkering" with the excluded parties list will not address some of the larger problems with the government's suspension and debarment system, Brian said. "The next step is to be able to have suspension and debarment used more regularly for anything other than mom-and-pop shops," she said. POGO studies have shown that large contractors are rarely banned from government work despite repeated misconduct.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., also has criticized the excluded parties list, and in July, she introduced the 2003 Contractors Accountability Act (H.R. 2767), which would require GSA to maintain a central database with records dating back five years of any court or administrative proceedings brought against federal contractors, and any resulting debarments or suspensions.

The bill has not made it out of the House Government Reform Committee. Maloney introduced similar legislation previously, most recently as an amendment to the 2003 Services Acquisition Reform Act (H.R. 1837). In early May, the House Government Reform Committee defeated the amendment by a vote of 22 to 18.

GSA is accepting comments on the proposed suspension and debarment regulations until Jan. 30, 2004. Send comments by e-mail to, or mail them to:

General Services Administration, FAR Secretariat (MVA)
1800 F Street N.W., Room 4035
Attn.: Laurie Duarte
Washington, D.C. 20405

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.