DHS needs to strengthen its suspension and debarment program, which ensures it only does business with responsible entities, according to a recent IG report.
Suspension and debarment ensures that individuals, companies and contractors do not receive contracts or grants in certain circumstances. Suspension usually applies when there is potential wrongdoing but facts are still emerging, and it is usually limited to 12 months. Debarment is used when an investigation is concluded and is usually not for more than three years.
The OIG found that the DHS Suspension and Debarment Instruction, the official guidance for applying such sanctions, is outdated and lacks required definitions and procedures. The report also found that DHS did not adequately document five out of seven administrative agreements that were approved between 2012 and 2017. It also highlighted the fact that the department does not have a centralized system to track suspension and debarment activities, contributing to inaccurate reporting in 2016. Finally, the OIG found that ongoing staffing issues are contributing to the inefficiency of the process.
The study makes four recommendations. It calls for an update of the Suspension and Debarment Instruction so that it includes definitions for all terms used, along with full requirements and procedures for documenting decisions. The OIG also recommends that the under secretary for management implement a centralized system that documents justification for decisions and enhances information sharing. To combat staffing issues, it recommends that the requirement to upload suspensions, debarments and administrative agreements within a set timeframe is integrated into employee performance management plans. Its final recommendation is that the under secretary for management examines staffing levels to see if recruitment is required to handle workloads.
DHS said it agrees with the recommendations and has already implemented plans to address them.