The effort to centralize information on federal contractors that have broken the law or violated regulations took an important step forward today when the House approved by voice vote H.R. 3033, the Contractor and Federal Spending Accountability Act. The issue now goes to the Senate, where Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) today introduced a companion measure.
The bills would require the federal government to take over a function that until now has been unofficially handled by the Project On Government Oversight. POGO’s Federal Contract Misconduct Database has been an immensely valuable pilot effort covering the 50 companies doing the most business with Uncle Sam.
First on that list in terms of contract dollars is arms maker Lockheed Martin, for which POGO has found 42 instances of misconduct—resulting in $553 million in fines and settlement costs—since 1995. Number two contractor Boeing has 24 instances and $863 million in misconduct dollars, followed by Northrop Grumman with 23 instances and $450 million. While Lockheed leads in the number of misconduct instances (followed by General Electric and Exxon Mobil and Honeywell International before Boeing and Northrop), it ranks 9th in misconduct dollars. The winners in that category are Exxon and BP Amoco. POGO defines “misconduct” as cases in which contractors “violate laws or regulations or are the subject of misconduct allegations in their dealings with the government, individuals, or private entities.”
H.R. 3033 would mandate the creation of a public database that would reveal whether any recipient of a federal contract or grant had, within the past five years: been involved in any civil, criminal or administrative proceeding resulting in a finding of fault of $5,000 or more; had a federal contract or grant terminated because of default; or been suspended or debarred from doing business with the federal government. This would enable federal agencies to weed out bad actors before awarding future contracts.
If it passes, the contractor database would represent the second instance in recent years in which a disclosure initiative pioneered by a non-profit became an official federal program. The recently launched USA Spending database of federal contracts and grants, mandated by bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), was directly modeled on the FedSpending database that had been created by OMB Watch.