Annual Report to Congress on Federal Suspension and Debarment System

On March 5, 2014, the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC or the “Committee”) issued its annual report to Congress on the current state of the Federal suspension and debarment system. The report includes a summary of the ISDC’s progress toward ensuring that the program is administered fairly and effectively, as well as actual data on Federal agency suspension and debarment actions in FY12 and FY13.

The ISDC uses a three-pronged approach to ensure the fair and effective use of suspensions and debarments. First, the Committee aims to help Federal agencies “build and maintain their capability” around the suspension and debarment process. This effort has been aided in large part by OMB Memorandum M-12-02, Suspension and Debarment of Federal Contractors and Grantees, which requires all agencies subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 to address weaknesses in suspension and debarment programs and to reinforce best practices. The ISDC asserts that all 24 CFO Act agencies have (1) established an accountable official for suspension and debarment activities, (2) taken steps to strengthen suspension and debarment programs, and (3) established internal controls to support suspension and debarment activities.

Second, the ISDC strives to reinforce principles of fairness and due process in suspension and debarment decisions. The Committee pursues this goal by (1) maintaining a library of online materials promoting the standardization of suspension and debarment activities, (2) coordinating mentoring activities by agencies with well-established suspension and debarment programs, and (3) launching a website to allow public access to suspension and debarment resources.

Third, the ISDC assists agencies in coordinating activities when more than one agency wishes to suspend or debar the same entity. In order to avoid duplicative or inconsistent efforts, the Committee manages an informal “lead agency” process whereby the agency “best situated” and with the greatest interest in the action is appointed to lead the suspension or debarment action.

The ISDC’s efforts to bolster the Federal suspension and debarment system are evident in the reported actions for FY12 and FY13, as shown in the following table:

Action Fiscal Year 2012 Fiscal Year 2013
 Suspensions 836   883
 Proposed for Debarment 2081 2244
 Debarments 1722 1715
 Show Cause Notices  122 131
 Administrative Agreements 54 61
 Voluntary Exclusions 12 10
 Referrals 3715 3942
 Declinations 203 154
Total Actions  8745 9140

According to the report, these figures are significantly higher than they were in FY09, when the ISDC began tracking the data. The Committee attributes these increases to the growing number of agencies with active suspension and debarment programs, but clarifies that it “does not consider the overall number of suspensions and debarments as a metric of success.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of Berkeley Research Group, LLC.