Performance reviews of federal contractors go online

A new law requires the Office of Management and Budget to publish contractor integrity information online. -db

August 4, 2010
By Aliya Sternstein

A bill President Obama recently signed requires the Office of Management and Budget to disclose on a public website contractor integrity information housed in a new vendor performance database, reversing a recent decision by the Defense Department to block public access to the entire database.

The supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 4899), enacted on July 29, contains a provision mandating OMB to post all information in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), except for past performance reviews. The rider amends the 2008 Clean Contracting Act, which established the internal online system.

Open government groups and taxpayer advocates had long sought access to the contents of the system to hold contractors accountable. Industry groups had raised concerns that some of the information in the system is proprietary and vendor reviews could be misinterpreted without additional context.

In a July 26 letter, the Defense Department rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for select data in the system on the grounds that internal decisions on contract awards are sensitive. “Information contained in the FAPIIS is exempt from release in its entirety,” stated the letter to the Project on Government Oversight, a government transparency group that on June 17 filed the FOIA request.

The database is expected to document criminal and civil proceedings against suppliers in connection with federal awards, vendors whose contracts were terminated, contractors banned from doing business with the government and performance reviews.

POGO officials on Wednesday praised the president’s decision to enact the legislation. “Making FAPIIS public was the right thing to do,” said Scott H. Amey, general counsel for the group. “The majority of data was already publicly available and now it will be stored in one place so that government officials, Congress and the public can better track how contractors do business and whether they act responsibly.”

Obama administration officials told a Senate panel on Tuesday that agencies are using analytical software to probe databases such as FAPIIS to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse.

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