Jay Rosen, “Mr. Monitor,” explores the similarities between suspensions and debarments, as well as how the actions differ. As far as likenesses go, consider both actions the kiss of death for federal contractors.
Recalling that the GSA website states, “The Suspension and Debarment process protects the federal government from fraud, waste and abuse by using a number of tools to avoid doing business with non-responsible contractors. Suspensions, proposals for debarment and debarments are the most widely known tools as these actions are visible to the public.
A suspension is used when there is an immediate need. It is a temporary measure; there is a 12-month limit, which can be extended for another six months. A debarment is for a specific term, but generally not longer than three years.
A suspension is used to essentially take steps to protect the government’s interests from a contractor that is believed to be unsuitable as a business partner until more of the facts can be assembled. Generally, the investigation is underway and there is a need to take protective steps before all the information has been fully gathered. This underscores the temporary nature of a suspension, while debarment is seen as more permanent solution, even with the limit of the three-year term.
Procedurally, a suspension requires notice at the time that a party is entered into the exclusive parties list on the System of Acquisition Management (SAM). A notice letter is issued to the contractor advising that the government has initiated the suspension, the factual basis for the suspension and the rights and procedures available to the respondent as it relates to the suspension. The notice usually indicates the exclusion is effective immediately.