Contractor Database Shrouded from Public


The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has long championed the establishment of a publicaly assessable contractor misconduct database that would include criminal, civil, and administrative cases in order to prevent offending private contractors from receiving contracts from the federal government. POGO has set up their own Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, listing companies with histories of misconduct such as contract fraud and environmental, ethics, and labor violations. Backing up POGO on the need for a public database are 32 like-minded organizations (including the Sunlight Foundation). U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney has introduced H.R. 3033 which would establish the database and make it publicly available. The bill passed the House last month. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has introduced S. 2904 which mirrors the House bill.

McCaskill’s bill has stalled, however. reports "senators on the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees — both in the majority and minority — would not support the bill if the database were open to the general public." The article quotes unnamed members of McCaskill’s staff as saying there were two main objections to making the database public. One was concern over "administrative challenges" of a public database. Two databases would have to be created, one for governmental eyes only (which would include sensitive and private information) and one for the public. Transparency is too much work, I guess. Another concern objecting senators have is the fear of "Monday morning quarterbacking" by the public. Oh, we don’t want the public second-guessing governmental decisions…Jeez.

Earlier this month, faced with the fact that her original bill with the public provision was not going to pass, McCaskill introduced an amendment to the 2009 defense authorization bill to set up an internal governmental database. As Scott Amey writes on the POGO Blog, "The public should have access to a government sponsored comprehensive list of contractors that defrauded the government, violated laws and regulations, had poor work performance, or had their contracts terminated for default."

Update: From POGO.

Further Update: POGO’s Nick Schwellenbach is scheduled to appear on CBS News at 6:30 p.m. tonight