The upward trend of suspensions and debarments continued in FY 2014. According to the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (“ISDC”) Report to Congress, released March 31, 2015, while referrals to the suspending and debarring officials decreased 12% from FY 2013, suspensions, debarments, and proposed debarments increased, Government-wide, by almost 8%. Since the ISDC began collecting data in 2009, these actions have continued to increase markedly.
The continuously increasing use of suspension and debarment actions is likely due to Congressional pressure for stronger and more active suspension and debarment programs across Government agencies. A May 2014 Government Accountability Office study reviewed the suspension and debarment programs of seven agencies. In 2011, six out of the seven had either a weak program or no program at all. In contrast, by 2014, all seven agencies had “active and effective” suspension and debarment programs.
As the ISDC Report outlines, suspensions and debarments are “tools to protect the government’s interest – not punishment.” Therefore, the number of such actions is not a “metric of success.” With the rise of institutionalized suspension and debarment programs, particularly the growing number of dedicated staff, many Government contractors and Government contracts attorneys question whether the Government will heed the ISDC’s reminder to its members “to regularly review their own actions to determine if the level of activity is reflective of what is necessary to protect their agency and the government from harm.” Regardless, as the ISDC’s statistics makes clear, Government contractors are well-served by implementing appropriate corporate governance processes to avoid the Government’s increasingly active suspension and debarment programs.