By Neil Gordon
It’s been two weeks since the federal government’s contractor and grantee responsibility database, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) went live on a public website. As you might recall from our initial review, we were not very impressed. This is how we summed up our feelings to Bloomberg Government:
The public version of FAPIIS certainly looks like and feels like a database that the government doesn’t want the public to see or use.
Other users were even less impressed—and more blunt. The Sunlight Foundation said FAPIIS “may be the worst government website we’ve ever seen.” OMB Watch called it a “steaming pile.” And here’s a quick rundown of the initial reactions from POGO’s blog readers:
- “an insult to the American public”
- “a waste of time and money”
- “This database sucks.”
Knowing this overwhelmingly negative public response would spur immediate corrective action from the General Services Administration, POGO decided to pay FAPIIS another visit. The site still looks the same—the same drab design, broken security certificates, and clunky search engine—but contractor and grantee responsibility data is starting to appear.
For example, on the search page I set the “Name” pulldown menu to “contains”, typed a letter or number in the name field, clicked the “All Government-entered FAPIIS Records” button, and the following information popped up (click to enlarge):
Using any combination of letters and/or numbers in the name field (or even leaving that field blank) brought back the same seven records, indicating that this might be all the responsibility data currently residing in the public FAPIIS site. Mind you, this is only government-entered FAPIIS data. We still can’t find any data entered by contractors and grantees, namely information about civil, criminal, and administrative misconduct instances. We wish there was an “All Contractor/Grantee-entered FAPIIS Records” button, too.
I then searched for the first entity listed in the above results, a company called Baggage or Container Auto, Inc., to learn more about the non-responsibility determination. Here is a screen-shot of what I found:
At first, I was pretty disappointed by this bare-bones summary. It took awhile before I noticed a radio button appearing above the summary:
When you click on it, a .pdf of the actual non-responsibility determination report pops up. I made this breakthrough discovery only after spending a considerable amount of time browsing the site, clicking around and experimenting with searches. Most users probably won’t have the same luck, which is why the GSA really needs to post a how-to guide or redesign the site to make it more user-friendly.
By the way, isn’t it funny that the government, in creating FAPIIS and then readying it for public release, has bent over backwards to protect the privacy of contractors, yet feels no similar obligation to its own employees, such as the Air Force official whose name, phone number and email address are prominently displayed in the above record? Once again, it’s obvious who calls the shots around Washington.
Despite its unpromising start, there is hope that the public FAPIIS site will eventually become a useful resource. Perhaps someday it will even put POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database out of business.
Keep playing around with the site and let us know what you find. Maybe all of us working together can come up with a sort of FAPIIS For Dummies, a how-to guide that walks users through the site and shares all kinds of tips and tricks.
Neil Gordon is a POGO Investigator.