Goodbye EPLS, Hello Controversy

August 8, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Have you ever had a nagging question about something and then once you find out the answer, you realize you’ve gotten more than you bargained for? After writing my blog post yesterday on the General Services Administration’s new System for Award Management at SAM.gov, I got to thinking about the future of the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS). After asking the GSA my question, I’ve determined that SAM.gov has opened up a whole new can of worms for the federal government.

Let me explain. Traditionally, awarding agencies and pass-through recipients would check the EPLS to determine whether a potential recipient has been debarred or suspended. We have a section in Thompson’s Federal Grants Management Handbook explaining the required procedures, and the Office of Management and Budget has codified its guidance to agencies on governmentwide debarment and suspension (nonprocurement) in 2 C.F.R. Part 180.  There is extensive discussion in 2 C.F.R. Part 180 about the Excluded Parties List System. Therefore, I got to wondering if because the functionalities of EPLS have been rolled into SAM.gov, would the term “Excluded Parties List System” no longer be used?

After asking GSA this question, a GSA official contacted me back with this response: “Yes, the terminology will change. In the case of your example, the term Excluded Parties List System will no longer be used now that the information can be found within SAM.gov. A search of SAM will return both the entity registration information and any exclusion records (i.e., suspensions or debarments) for the search term. In SAM, these exclusion records fall into the Performance Information functional area.” Interesting.

In a nutshell, no longer using the term Excluded Parties List System means that 2 C.F.R. Part 180 is no longer accurate and will require extensive revisions. I’m not sure that anyone at OMB had considered this. With OMB now in the midst of planning its next proposal for grant reforms (not to mention the time it took to finalize the 2012 OMB Circular A-133 Compliance Supplement), I would be surprised if a revision of 2 C.F.R. Part 180 is in the cards anytime soon.

This appears to me to be another case of the cart getting before the horse. I’m sure agencies will adjust to using SAM.gov until 2 C.F.R. Part 180 can be revised, but all federal parties involved should consider the ramifications that new systems can have on their current regulations and guidance to avoid such circumstances as we’re now in with 2 C.F.R. Part 180.

Am I off base here or do you agree? Let us know.

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