Watchdog group upgrades contractor misconduct database

As legislators push for a governmentwide database on contractor performance, a private watchdog group has beefed up its own trove of information on vendor misconduct.

The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group, on Wednesday announced an improved version of its Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which debuted in 2002. It now will allow users to upload primary source documentation of each instance of misconduct. It also will feature correspondence between POGO and the offending contractors.

The announcement comes amid increased congressional focus on contractor performance. The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement held a hearing Wednesday to determine if and why poorly performing companies win additional contracts.

Last Friday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced the Contractors and Federal Spending Accountability Act (H.R.3033), which would mandate the creation of a governmentwide contractor performance database. Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., the chairman of the subcommittee, is a co-sponsor.

At Wednesday's hearing, Scott Amey, POGO general counsel and senior investigator, said the group has worked with Maloney for years on contractor accountability issues and sees the legislation as an important step. In an interview, Amey said the database created under Maloney's legislation would likely look very much like the POGO database but could include a wider range of information.

"It would bring to light a lot of things we haven't been able to find or that are included in our database as 'undetermined' or 'undisclosed,' " Amey said. "It would bring to light settlements we haven't been able to account for in our totals. The government database Rep. Maloney has proposed would expand on what POGO has done and bring it to a greater level with more transparency."

This is not the first time Maloney has proposed such a database, but the bill has not gained traction in previous sessions of Congress.

Amey said with federal contracting dollars doubling over the past few years and the congressional focus on contractor performance increasing, this legislation may have a better chance than the past efforts.

"With the change in the contracting landscape, there is more of a pro-taxpayer focus than there has been in years," he said. "I have a great hope this Congress is going to pass this legislation and it can be signed by the president."

Many other listings of contractor performance and misconduct exist, both in the public and private sector. The General Services Administration lists suspended or debarred contractors in its Excluded Parties List System. The governmentwide Past Performance Information Retrieval System assists in the sharing of performance evaluations. And the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee offers its own contracts database.

These are not consistent in form or content, however, and often do not provide the full picture. While procurement officers are required by law to consult the Excluded Parties List and Past Performance Information Retrieval System before making awards, Amey said these databases do not include criminal, civil or administrative complaints that did not result in suspension or disbarment. They also do not include information on settlements, fines or penalties.

At Wednesday's hearing, Maloney said her legislation would put comprehensive performance metrics in place, standardizing the information that agencies are required to submit and the way it is submitted.

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