By NEIL GORDON
Last week, POGO submitted a public comment to the General Services Administration (GSA) in response to a proposed extension of a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provision requiring contractors to disclosure certain contract-related misconduct. Since December 2008, the FAR has required contractors to timely disclose to the government credible evidence of criminal violations related to a federal contract or subcontract, violations of the civil False Claims Act, or significant contract overpayments or else be subject to suspension or debarment.
Despite a few misgivings, POGO has publicly supported the mandatory reporting requirement ever since it was first proposed back in November 2007. Based on what we’ve seen and heard since then, it seems to be working as intended. POGO blogged in September 2009 about reports that contractors were taking the new requirement very seriously.
Unfortunately, the government has never provided a comprehensive accounting of the mandatory disclosure program’s successes, failures, strengths, and/or weaknesses. This is in marked contrast to its willingness to share with the public an array of information about the implementation and enforcement of other federal laws and regulations, such as the False Claims Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. POGO’s public comment proposed a reasonable solution. Every agency’s Inspector General should be required to periodically report such statistics as the number and types of disclosures the office receives, the actions taken in response to those disclosures, whether any contractors were suspended or debarred for violating the requirement, and, most importantly, how much money is being recovered.
The mandatory disclosure requirement is a win-win for contractors and taxpayers. It forces contractors to strengthen their ethics practices and fosters a good working relationship with the government. It benefits the government and taxpayers by encouraging the early detection and reporting of contract-related problems before they worsen and lead to costly enforcement actions, poor contract performance, contract terminations, and the loss of taxpayer money to fraud, waste, and abuse. We believe that compiling and sharing statistics about the implementation and enforcement of the mandatory disclosure requirement would increase government transparency and accountability and enable the government to determine if the requirement is achieving its intended objectives.
Neil Gordon is a POGO Investigator.