We’ve all heard the expression that those who deal with the Government must turn square corners. This is because the Government has a broad array of tools at its disposal to motivate, coax, and cajole contractors and federal grant recipients to play by the rules. Those tools include harsh measures such as criminal prosecution and civil false claims act enforcement on the one hand and poor CPARS ratings on the other. A seemingly less severe administrative option available to the Government is suspension and debarment. However, any entity that has been suspended or debarred knows that these measures can prove harsh and disruptive. While the numbers of suspensions and debarments have declined from the all-time high in 2011, there is still significant activity. In its FY 2018 report, the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee reported 2444 referrals, 480 suspensions, 1542 proposed debarments, and 1334 debarments. The number of referrals for suspension and debarment in FY 2018 is almost exactly the same as the number of GAO bid protests filed that year.
What is Suspension and Debarment?
Like any consumer, the Government has inherent authority to pick with whom it will do business. Not everyone makes the cut. Suspension and debarment are the Government’s tool to avoid entities it views as a high risk for poor performance, fraud, waste, and abuse. Suspension and debarment preclude a business entity or individual from contracting with the Government or from receiving grants, loans, loan guarantees or other forms of assistance from the Government. A suspension is a temporary exclusion when the Government determines immediate action is necessary pending the completion of an investigation or legal proceeding. A debarment is an exclusion for a defined, reasonable period of time—often three years.
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