GSA to give notice to companies facing debarment

The General Services Administration has proposed a rule that would require it to notify contractors that are being considered for suspension or debarment from federal contracting before such action is taken.

The proposed rule was published in the June 18 Federal Register. GSA is accepting public comments on the rule until Aug. 17 at www.regulations.govor via e-mail. GSAR case 2004-G502 should be cited in the comments.

According to the proposed rule, GSA would give contractors what it calls a show-cause notice. GSA is not required to tell a contractor that the agency is considering suspension or debarment; it's only required to send a notice after the action has been taken.

GSA's move was prompted by the fact that some contractors found out from news reports that the agency was considering suspending or debarring them, and were able to talk to the GSA suspension and debarment official about the work in question.

Others found out only after receiving the suspension or proposed debarment notice, said Mary Alice Johnson, a GSA spokeswoman.

The show-cause notice is "just one added measure of due process" that will ensure a level playing field for all companies under scrutiny by the GSA suspension and debarment official, Johnson said.

The show-cause notice would be sent to the contractor before the notice of suspension or proposed debarment, except when waiting to take action would harm the government, the proposed rule said.

The show-cause notice would not place the contractor on GSA's list of parties excluded from federal procurement and nonprocurement programs, such as grant programs, as does a notice of suspension or proposed debarment. A company on the list cannot receive any new federal work until the suspension or debarment ends.

The show-cause notice would not change the contractor's right to respond to a notice of suspension or proposed debarment within 30 days after its receipt, according to the proposed rule.

GSA has issued its first show-cause notice, to CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., although it is not yet required to do so, Johnson said. The letter, from GSA suspension and debarment official Joseph Neurauter, was sent to the company May 26. In it, Neurauter told CACI Chief Executive Officer J.P. "Jack" London that it appeared a GSA schedule was misused in issuing task orders for interrogation services in Iraq "with the knowledge and consent of CACI."

The letter asked CACI to respond in person or in writing with "information and argument that CACI should remain eligible for future government contracts."

GSA suspended or debarred 113 contractors in 2003, according to the proposed rule.

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