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“The focus on the numbers encourages the wrong behavior, which is to take action rather than really take a look at what's going on”


Venable partner Dismas Locaria was interviewed in a May 23, 2014 Law360 article on a sharp rise in suspensions and debarments of federal contractors. The rise follows pressure from Congress to cut off contracts with risky or unscrupulous business practices. Despite the increased number of suspensions and debarments, many say the raw numbers do not provide a full picture of debarment reform.

“The focus on the numbers encourages the wrong behavior, which is to take action rather than really take a look at what's going on,” said Locaria. “A lot of these actions are sort of shooting first and asking questions later.” Commenting on reform efforts, he said, “The ‘numberism’ mindset is present in the most comprehensive pending legislation on suspension and debarment, the Stop Unworthy Spending Act, which allows agencies to opt out of a new suspension and debarment board if they suspend or debar 50 contractors annually.”

Locaria suggested occasional federal court litigation would be preferable to a new debarment system to keep agency mistakes in check. “Because there's more activity, there's likely to be more lawsuits. But you certainly don't want to turn every suspension or debarment into a [legal battle],” he added. “You're going to take an administrative process and make it far more litigious and costly than it is currently.”