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Watchdog: It’s Unreal How Few Contractors Get Debarred for Failure

For more on the systemic failures in contracting that contribute to firms like Blackwater getting more and more security contracts after, like, killing civilians and stealing guns, check out Scott Amey’s recent testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Amey, the general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, zeroes in on a problem I highlighted in my piece: the inexplicable reluctance of government contracting officials to declare a company “debarred” — an inelegant word meaning formally ineligible for bidding on future contracts. It’s pretty bad:

According to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, there were only 4,296 suspensions or debarments of contractors and individuals in fiscal year 2007, which was down from the 7,300 in FY 2006 and the 9,900 in FY 2005. All federal agencies under-utilize suspension and debarment against large contractors that supply the majority of the $530 billion worth of goods and services to the federal government each year. In fact, there have only been a handful of large contractors suspended since the 1990s – GE (for a period of five days), Worldcom, Enron, Arthur Anderson, Boeing (which received multiple waivers to receive new contracts during its suspension), and most recently IBM (for a period of eight days in 2008).

Basically, there are a number of Bad Contractor lists that apparently get ignored by contracting overseers, so even if Blackwater gets placed on one of them, that still won’t guarantee that it won’t get future government work. The system is basically set up to make it difficult to kick bad contractors out of the running. Which is pretty close to the dictionary definition of corruption.

Update: Very sorry for misspelling Amey’s name initially. Clearly Dick Armey rules my world.

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