By NEIL GORDON
Almost six months have passed since the public debut of the government's contractor and grantee responsibility database, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, or FAPIIS. POGO was initially less than thrilled with FAPIIS, but we were optimistic that it would improve over time.
Although the public FAPIIS website still has the same drab, clumsy overall look and feel–and still provides no user guide–POGO is pleased to see the addition of two new user-friendly features. The most noticeable new feature is the “Get All Awardee-Entered Proceedings Information” button on the bottom of the search screen. Given that there was already a button for quick access to all government-entered information, this addition seemed like a no-brainer. Clicking this button retrieves an Excel-exportable list of “Convictions / Findings of Fault” and “Other Acknowledgements of Fault” instances for all contactors and grantees. No longer do you have to guess where civil/criminal/administrative misconduct records reside for a contractor like Lockheed Martin, which has hundreds of listings in FAPIIS. In addition, search results now contain direct links to the contractor’s or grantee’s FAPIIS listing, which spares you having to constantly navigate back to the search page.
POGO quickly found contractor-entered data for several contractors in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, including Bechtel, Chugach Alaska Corp., Honeywell International, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Novartis, SAIC, and United Technologies. Unfortunately, the quality of this data leaves much to be desired. For example, here’s the description provided by Honeywell for one “other acknowledgement of fault” instance:
ON JULY 9, 2004 THE ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL FILED A COMPLAINT AGAINST HONEYWELL ALLEGING THAT THE COMPANY WRONGFULLY WITHHELD INFORMATION AND / OR MADE FALSE STATEMENTS AND CERTIFICATIONS IN CONNECTION WITH CERTAIN ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTS HONEYWELL SUBMITTED PURSUANT TO A CONSENT DECREE ENTERED INTO WITH THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY. HONEYWELL DENIED ALL ALLEGATIONS AND LIABILITY FOR THE ALLEGED VIOLATIONS AND CLAIMS. THE PARTIES ULTIMATELY AGREED TO SETTLE THE MATTER VIA A
The rest of the description is cut off. For the sake of comparison, click here to view the same instance in POGO’s database. Which version would you find more useful if you were about to award a multi-million-dollar contract?
Instance descriptions in FAPIIS follow no rhyme or reason. Some descriptions provide almost no information (for example, “BILLING DISCREPANCIES” or “REFER TO CCR REGISTRATION FOR CAGE 02GJ5, DUNS NUMBER 834951691”), while many others, such as the Honeywell example above, provide a fair amount of detail but are cut off. Some are nearly indecipherable stings of jargon and abbreviations. Some were entered by foreign companies using a non-Western alphabet.
Instances do not contain supporting documentation, which means contracting officers must rely on the self-serving account provided by the contractor. Government-entered records in FAPIIS, by contrast, contain uploaded primary source documentation. On the bright side, at least contractors are entering instances that do not involve a formal admission or finding of guilt or liability, which eases one of POGO’s long-standing concerns.
FAPIIS is starting to win us over here at POGO (hence, the one thumb up in the graphic at top), but it still has lots of room for improvement. The government should impose standards with regard to inputting instance descriptions. Cut-off descriptions must be posted in full. The site should provide a guide or FAQ page to help users. Ideally, FAPIIS should resemble the USAspending.gov website in terms of style, functionality, and ease-of-use.
Neil Gordon is a POGO Investigator.