Be Very Aware: Agencies Cracking Down on Dubious Practices by Contractors

By Carol L. O’Riordan

We have written here and here about the types of violations and errors that can lead a company to be suspended or debarred from government contracts. There are a great many minefields out there, and it is not just criminal acts that can lead to suspensions or debarments. Many of our readers need not be reminded that without federal contract work, many companies could not remain in business.

Lately, as a recent Government Accountability report notes, the federal government has cracked down on questionable contractors and on questionable acts by otherwise rule-abiding contractors.

According to the GAO report, on a government-wide basis, the number of suspension and debarment actions increased from 1,836 in fiscal 2009 to 4,812 last year. It seems that a great many agencies, including ones that were not previously noted for their vigilance, have increased their scrutiny of their contractors.

The GAO pointed out that six agencies that hadn’t done much in the past to screen their contractors had cracked down. These were the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Justice, State and Treasury, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Suspensions and debarments in these six agencies increased from 19 in 2010 to 271 last year.

In view of this added attention to alleged misdeeds by contractors, it is now all the more important for contractors to consult with experienced legal counsel who know the ins and outs of the agencies and what types of activity are likely to trigger a suspension or debarment action.

Even if there is just a hint of a problem at an agency, a businessperson or inside counsel should call an experienced government contracts attorney to avoid potential disaster.

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