Fed contractors' history could be open to public in April

The Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System database contains details on the federal contractors' reliability and history

The Obama administration expects to have the details on government contractors’ work history posted publicly online around April 15, when officials complete core changes to a federal database architecture, officials announced today.

The Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) is a one-stop website for contracting officers and federal employees to look at the history of companies’ work with the federal government. But the public will soon be able to review what’s inside the database too, roughly a year after the site was launched.

At the moment, however, the FAPIIS website's architecture lacks the functionality to make the information in the database available to the public as it is posted in the system, according to a notice in today’s Federal Register.

The FAPIIS database currently contains specific information on the federal contractors’ and grantees’ reliability and history of work with the government. Contracting officers’ reviews of their performances had been posted in the Past Performance Information Retrieval System, until FAPIIS took its place in 2010. Then that same year, Congress required the government to open FAPIIS to the public. However, the Federal Acquisition Regulation restricts past performance reviews by contracting officers from being released to the public.

FAPIIS includes data from the retrieval system, as well as information from other databases, including the Excluded Parties List System, which cites companies that are suspended or debarred from federal contracting. The overall purpose of FAPIIS is to make it easier for contracting officers to get an overall assessment of a company without having to search numerous databases.

“FAPIIS is intended to significantly enhance the scope of information available to contracting officers as they evaluate the integrity and performance of prospective contractors,” the notice states.

In the update to the acquisition regulations, contractors will receive a notice that new information was posted in the database and they will have a chance to respond. Their responses will remain in the database with contracting officers’ reviews. Companies have to update information about criminal, civil and administrative proceedings twice a year.

The watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is concerned that even if the new database architecture is ready to open publicly by April 15, there is some question whether any data will be in the database. It is possible that data may not be entered until contractors file semi-annual reports at an unspecified later date, POGO suggested.

“It could be a shell in April,” Scott Amey, general counsel for POGO said today. “We may have to wait until July until the information gets entered in.”

Amey also noted “odd” wording in the rule, which states that information will be available “on or after April 15,” without a specific date set.

“It will build up to a more informative database, but there is a real question about how soon that will occur,” Amey said. “It seems as if the government placed transparency on the back burner in an effort to create the platform and give contractors more time to object.”

About the Authors

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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