Watch Out! Agencies Use of Suspension, Debarment on the Rise

May 23, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

gavel-4-1409594-mThe federal government is getting serious about using debarment and suspension. A recent Government Accountability Office report shows that the number of suspension and debarment actions governmentwide has more than doubled from 1,836 in fiscal year 2009 to 4,812 in fiscal year 2013. That’s an impressive jump!

So what led to this increased use of debarment and suspension? We’ll have to go back to a 2011 GAO report that found that while some federal agencies had the appropriate staff or practices to properly review potential awardees and refer irresponsible contractors for inclusion on the Excluded Parties List System (now found at, many other agencies did not. GAO then recommended that federal agencies improve their suspension and debarment programs by assigning dedicated staff resources, developing detailed implementing guidance and promoting the use of a case referral process.
In a follow-up report issued this week, GAO noted that six agencies it reviewed have addressed staffing issues through actions such as defining roles and responsibilities, adding positions, and consolidating suspension and debarment functions. They also have issued formal policies and promulgated detailed guidance.

In addition, the Office of Management and Budget and the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee, in response to GAO’s 2011 report recommendations, took steps to strengthen suspension and debarment efforts. In November 2011, OMB directed agencies to address weaknesses and reinforce best practices in their suspension and debarment programs, while the ISDC reported to Congress in September 2012 that its member agencies, in response to OMB’s directive, had each named an accountable official responsible for suspension and debarment and had taken steps to evaluate suspension and debarment resources and policies.

We continue to hear that the federal government is taking more and more steps to boost accountability. This increased use of debarment and suspension is just one more piece to this puzzle. Grant applicants out there should be aware of this and should be vigilant in ensuring that they are worthy of properly managing a federal award should they win the award.


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