Suspensions and Debarments — 3 perspectives — Why do they happen and are they necessary?

Joe Jordan is the President’s nominee to be the next administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. During his confirmation hearing Jordan was grilled on how he would improve agencies’ use of suspension and debarment against poorly performing contractors and how he would get a handle on the unknown number of contracts used throughout government.

It’s a subject thats been getting a lot of attention lately. But there is still a lot of confusion, perspectives and gray area surrounding suspensions and debarments.

The American Council on Technology and the Industry Advisory Council pulled together an all star panel of procurement experts.

  • Dan Gordon is the former administration in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and is currently the Associate Dean of Government Procurement Law Studies at George Washington University Law School.
  • Rob Burton is a partner at Venable Law firm.
  • Joseph Neurauter is the GSA’s suspension and debarment official.

Three different perspectives on suspensions and debarments:

Gordon says, “The purpose of suspension and debarments is to protect the taxpayers. It’s no secret that I was appreciative of the GAO report that came out in the fall. But it is worth keeping in mind the lens that GAO used to identify the problem agencies were the ones that weren’t suspending and debarring agencies. That has the implication that more suspensions and debarments are good a good thing. GAO didn’t actually say that. But the perception was what this country needs is to hang more contractors up to dry in trees.”

Burton says, “It’s interesting to see when your in the private sector what this power (suspensions and debarments) can do to companies. You begin to look at a little differently. I am definitely under the impression that our regulations are flawed. And they are flawed in one major way. The proposed debarment process has basically no due process. You could go home today and there could be a letter in your mailbox saying you are now proposed for debarment. The implication of that is that you can not do business with anyone in the federal government right now. You have not had the opportunity to present any information to the government, you have not the ability to defend yourself in any way.”

Neurauter says,
“I have some slightly different views from Rob and Dan. The way I look at it, if you send somebody a notice out of the blue, they are put on the ineligible list. Is that perceived as being punished. Sure it is. But what I look at here is its about minimizing the risk to the federal government. That is what I need to do. I am in the acquisition office as GSA. I try to look at it from an acquisition perspective.”

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