Groups urge access to federal contractor oversight data

ICOG isn’t one of the signers, but this letter from a coalition of groups led by the Project on Government Oversight is worth a read. It concerns pending legislation that would establish a comprehensive database of government contractors, including information about any problems involving integrity or performance.
The Project on Government Oversight is a non-profit group that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in the federal government. You can get more information on this and other similar initiatives at the organization’s Web site.
May 19, 2008Dear Member of Congress:

In a few short years, government contract spending has eclipsed $440 billion and the federal government is doing little, if anything, to ensure that risky contractors do not receive taxpayer dollars. The undersigned groups urge both Chambers of Congress to pass the provision, currently incorporated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, for a comprehensive contractor responsibility database that was originally proposed by Representative Carolyn Maloney (H.R. 3033) and Senator Claire McCaskill (S. 2904). The database provision will require the Administrator of the General Services Administration to establish and maintain a database of information regarding integrity and performance of persons awarded federal contracts and grants, including details about contractors that have defrauded the government, violated laws and regulations, had poor work performance, or had their contracts terminated for default. The database will address the government’s failure to vet contractors, as required by law, so to determine whether they are truly responsible.
The legislation requires contractors, many of which receive a large percentage of their revenue from the federal government, to report non-responsible behavior. Specifically, the contractor responsibility database will go a long way toward improving pre-award contracting decisions and enhancing the government’s ability to weed out risky contractors, especially those with histories of non-responsibility or poor performance. Instances of non-responsibility include: false claims against the government, violations of the Anti-Kickback Act, fraud, conspiracy to launder money, retaliation against workers’ complaints, and environmental violations.
The undersigned groups urge you to make the contactor responsibility database governmentwide and accessible to the public.
Obviously, government officials across the government, including contracting officers (COs), suspension and debarment officials (SDOs), and Members of Congress, need access to the database. The same companies doing business with the DoD also have contracts at many other federal agencies. COs and SDOs need access to information about their contactors’ conduct in performing contracts at other agencies.
The public also deserves to see how taxpayer money is spent. Most of the information—suspensions, debarments, and civil, criminal, and administrative cases—is already publicly available via DOJ or agency press releases or SEC filings. The remaining instances would be contracts terminated for default and administrative agreements (which the Army already makes publicly available). Inclusion of such cases will deter irresponsible behavior and induce companies to voluntarily report it to the government. We believe that the public deserves to see the companies that broke the law, performed poorly, and had their government contracts terminated, or have entered into agreements with federal or state agencies.
The opponents of the contractor responsibility database are powerful and well-financed; therefore any effort to publicly expose contractors’ missteps will be bitterly challenged. We know what we are up against and we will need your support to ensure that the public has access to this vital government wide database.
Please join the undersigned groups in supporting this important legislation and ensure that the public has access to DoD and civilian contractor responsibility information.
Sincerely,Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
Danielle Brian, Executive Director

9/11 Research Project
John Judge
American Association of Law Libraries
Mary Alice Baish, Acting Washington Affairs Representative
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
Jacqueline Simon, Public Policy Director
Californians Aware
Terry Francke, General Counsel
Center for Corporate Policy
Charlie Cray, Director
Change to Win
Deborah Chalfie, Deputy Director of Policy
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Melanie Sloan, Executive Director
CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Gael Murphy, Cofounder
Common Cause
Sarah Dufendach, Vice President of Legislative Affairs
CorpWatch
Tonya Hennessey, Project Director
Essential Action
Robert Weissman, Director
Federation of American Scientists (FAS)
Steven Aftergood, Project Director
First Amendment Foundation
Adria Harper, Director
Fund for Constitutional Government
Conrad Martin, Executive Director
Government Accountability Project (GAP)
Mark P. Cohen, Executive Director
HALT
James C. Turner, Executive Director
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Frederick P. McLuckie, Legislative Director
iSolon.org
J.H. (Jim) Snider, President
National Coalition Against Censorship
Joan E. Bertin, Executive Director
National Security Archive
Meredith Fuchs, General Counsel
National Taxpayers Union (NTU)
Duane Parde, President
OMB Watch
Adam Hughes, Director of Federal Fiscal Policy
OpenTheGovernment.org
Patrice McDermott, Director
Privacy International, FOI Project
David Banisar, Director
Public Citizen
Tyson Slocum, Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Jeff Ruch, Executive Director
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Lucy A. Dalglish, Executive Director
The Sunlight Foundation
Ellen S. Miller, Executive Director
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Ryan Alexander, President
United Food and Commercial Workers International
Michael J. Wilson, Director Legislative and Political Action Department
U.S. PIRG
John Krieger, Staff Attorney
Washington Coalition for Open Government
Toby Nixon, President