Debarment: Not Just for the Feds Anymore
While suspension and debarment has long been a Federal Government action, state and local governments are starting to adopt the practice as well. For example, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the county contracting code was amended in 2012 to require a 5 year debarment of contractors convicted of bribery and other crimes. It also allows the county’s inspector general to debar contractors for fail
ing to perform a contract or for having a history of unsatisfactory performance. The county code was changed in the aftermath of federal corruption scandal that resulted in a complete reorganization of the county’s governmental structure. As a result of the change to the code 38 individuals and organizations have been debarred by Cuyahoga County in less than a year. Last week while defending the length of these debarments, the county’s legal department argued that “The intent of the [county] law is to build the trust of the citizens in the contracting system, and we couldn’t afford to have our inspector general to be questioned why you gave this one contractor three years, this other contractor four years or a third contractor five years…That’s why we built in these rigid requirements.”
Most state procurement codes have suspension and debarment regimes, but the programs are either nonexistent or relatively inactive. With the increased awareness of the federal suspension and debarment regime, it is not surprising that state and local governments are now becoming more active. Contractors that participate in only state and local government contracting need to be aware they are not immune from debarment simply because they do not participate in the federal contracting sphere.