Who’s Contracting Mess Won’t Appear in FAPIIS, but Should?
Give yourself credit if you guessed “ArmorGroup North America Inc.” (AGNA) and the “Lord of the Flies” environment they oversaw in the housing camp for U.S embassy guards in Kabul, Afghanistan, which our friends over at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) exposed back in 2009.
Earlier this month, AGNA, the private security company and subsidiary of the British security services conglomerate G4S, settled a whistleblower’s lawsuit associated with the scandal, agreeing to pay a $7.5 million fine. Importantly, though, the contractor settled the suit without an admission of fault or liability, effectively sweeping the incident under the rug with regard to future considerations of government contracts
Any future contracting officials seeking to determine ArmorGroup’s integrity and trustworthiness will not see the incident listed in the government’s top contracting performance database, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).
Currently, FAPIIS only displays lawsuits or administrative actions taken by federal, state, or local governments where there is an admission of fault or liability by the contractor. And guess what contractors always demand whenever they settle something out of court; yup, immunity from any finding of fault, keeping many of the worst contracting abuses out of the government’s databases and away from the eyes of contracting officials.
In AGNA’s case, that includes allegations of the company blatantly disregarding “its obligations to ensure the safety and security of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul” – according to the whistleblower who sued – and various other nefarious wrongdoings – according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Offenses include:
- “AGNA submitted false claims for payment on a State Department contract to provide armed guard services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan”;
- “[I]n 2007 and 2008, AGNA guards violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by visiting brothels in Kabul, and that AGNA’s management knew about the guards’ activities”;
- “AGNA misrepresented the prior work experience of 38 third country national guards it had hired to guard the Embassy”; and
- “AGNA failed to comply with certain Foreign Ownership, Control and Influence mitigation requirements on the embassy contract, and on a separate contract to provide guard services at a Naval Support Facility in Bahrain.”
Those seem like some important pieces of information that a contracting official might want to take into consideration if choosing between ArmorGroup and one of its modestly more responsible competitors when determining the award of a future federal contract.
Of course, contracting officials – and the public for that matter – could see this information if Congress simply passed some common sense contracting transparency reforms. Last spring, then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced a bi-partisan bill including just such reforms.
Included in the legislation was language to pull into FAPIIS “records of any administrative proceeding entered into by a contractor at any level of government” no matter the finding of fault or liability. There was also a provision “increasing the length of time from five years to 10 that a contractor’s past performance record on a government contract” would stay in the database.
The legislation ingloriously died in committee, however, and with Sen. Feingold now out of the Senate, the transparency community needs a new champion to step up in Congress and push for these basic contracting reforms.
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