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Gov't Outlines Plan for Contractor Performance Database

Robert Brodsky | Government Executive Magazine

September 07, 2009

The government is developing a comprehensive database that will track the performance of federal contractors, according to a proposed rule published Thursday in the Federal Register.

Click here to read the proposed rule

The Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, which the General Services Administration will maintain, will integrate a handful of existing databases with new information provided by contracting officers and suspension and debarment officials. The database was mandated through a provision in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act.

Awardees with more than $10 million in current grants or contracts will have to submit data on any criminal, civil or administrative proceedings against them dating back three years. The rule projects that each year about 5,000 contractors will file reports.

Federal contracting officers will be expected to check the database when making a responsibility determination or conducting a past performance evaluation for all new contracts worth more than $500,000, the proposed rule stated. Procurement officials have been required since 1995 to consider past performance in all new source selections but often have relied on surveys or interviews with former customers, according to David Drabkin, GSA’s deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy.

The database will be private and only federal officials will have access. Contractors will be able to view information about themselves, and post comments in response to information that has been included by the government, the notice said.

The new system, known as FAPIIS, will incorporate contractor data from the Excluded Parties List System — which tracks entities that have been suspended or debarred from receiving contracts — and from the Past Performance Information Retrieval System and the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System.

Government watchdogs and congressional investigators have criticized agencies recently for failing to regularly use the latter two systems when awarding contracts. But, Drabkin noted that the databases have not always contained up-to-date and valuable information.

“I think we agree as a community across the government that we have not been as diligent as we possibly could have been in terms of populating those databases with past performance information,” Drabkin said. He added that the “paucity of data in the system has led people not to use the system as much as they might have.”

GSA expects to award a contract by the end of September that will implement a new way for the agency to manage and possibly merge the nine separate acquisition-related databases that make up its Integrated Acquisition Environment, Drabkin said. Those databases include the Excluded Parties List, Past Performance Information Retrieval and Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting systems.

If contracting officers determine that an “otherwise successful offeror is not a responsible source due to lack of satisfactory performance record or satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics,” then they must include such information in the system. Determinations about the contract performance of small firms must first go to the Small Business Administration for review.

Suspension and debarment officials also will be responsible for noting when they have reached an “administrative agreement” with a contractor. Administrative agreements outline certain compliance actions that a contractor must take to be determined a responsible company.

But, the rule said inclusion in FAPIIS should not constitute a defacto debarment. “The procedures emphasize that certain past information in the system may no longer be relevant to a determination of present responsibility,” the notice said. “It is recommended that a statement to this effect be posted on the screen when the contracting officer accesses the information.”

Contractors will be required to certify whether they have been convicted of, or had a civil judgment rendered against them for:

  • Commission of fraud or a criminal offense in connection with obtaining, attempting to obtain, or performing a public contract or subcontract;
  • Violation of federal or state antitrust statutes relating to the submission of contract offers or the commission of embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, making false statements, tax evasion, violating federal criminal tax laws or receiving stolen property.

Contractors already are required to certify a host of information to the government such as recent felony convictions or past debarments or suspensions, Drabkin said. “We don’t find that … we have many contractors who intentionally, or even by mistake, misrepresent or miscertify because the consequences can be really severe,” he said. “And, so I don’t think we are anticipating any real problems with the implementation of a rule that requires contractors to fill out the rest of the information that we don’t already have.”

The proposed contractor performance database has undergone multiple incarnations in recent years.

The original bill, introduced in July 2007 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., included a controversial provision that would have directed federal officials to start suspension or debarment proceedings against firms with two judgments or convictions for the same offense. But, that provision was removed after discussions with House Republicans.

Maloney’s original bill also called for the system to be open to the public. But, a companion bill introduced in the Senate in May 2008 by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., limited access to government officials.

A spokeswoman for McCaskill said the office still was in the process of reviewing the proposed rule.

The Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Federal Financial Management will provide similar, separate guidance to federal grantees in the coming months, the notice said.

Comments on the proposal can be submitted until Oct. 5, through Regulations.gov or to:

General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat Attention: Hada Flowers 1800 F Street, N.W., Room 4041 Washington, D.C. 20405
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