By Scott Amey
Today, a new rule has been proposed paving the way toward public access to the federal government’s contractor performance and responsibility database, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS). FAPIIS lays out the track records of federal contractors and grantees, which receive a trillion dollars in federal funds each year.
President Obama signed FAPIIS’s public posting into law on July 29, 2010, yet the government is giving contractors nearly a year before the information is available to the public. And from the looks of it, the public may be deprived of more information than just past performance reviews, which are already slated to be off-limits. According to a recent Government Executive article, the General Services Administration (GSA) has been listening to contractors and their concerns, seemingly to the exclusion of the concerns of transparency advocates like POGO:
GSA officials are aware of industry's concerns and are taking steps to redact data prohibited by the 1974 Privacy Act or that concerns a contractor's proprietary information. Other information also could be withheld based on pending litigation, according to [GSA Senior Procurement Executive Joseph] Neurauter.
But we have heard industry concerns about making FAPIIS public for years—and most of them can be dismissed as moot since the vast majority of information that will be entered into FAPIIS is already publicly available.
I understand that the government has to create a system that allows both public and government-only access, but waiting nearly a year to have access to limited contractor information is unacceptable and an unnecessary concession to contractors. At the very least, the public should be provided unimpeded access to information entered into FAPIIS since last July.
I guess POGO will have to stay in the contractor misconduct database business a while longer. I recommend that any government official or member of the public who wants to obtain a true record of contractor integrity and business ethics (something contract officers are required to do by law) visit POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which provides a more comprehensive list of misconduct for the top federal contractors.
With today’s rule and the recent rollbacks of the provision to withhold payment from contractors using flawed accounting practices and other oversight protections, the government is looking more like a contractor grievance department than an entity that is protecting taxpayers.
Scott Amey is POGO's General Counsel
Image: screenshot from FAPIIS trailer.