FAR blacklisting rule revoked

FAR blacklisting rule revoked

The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council late last month rescinded a controversial contractor responsibility rule, which would have required contracting officers to consider a bidder's compliance with multiple laws before making an award.

Under the so-called blacklisting rule, contractors would have had to certify whether they violated any tax, labor and employment, environmental, antitrust or consumer protection laws in the preceding three years.

Many industry groups, government contractors and agencies came out strongly against the rule; labor unions favored it. The Bush administration early last year placed a stay on the rule that extended until Dec. 29.

The FAR council received more than 1,500 comments. Industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Associated General Contractors of America, filed a federal suit in 2000 to overturn the rule.

After nearly a year of reconsideration, the council decided that current regulations governing suspension and debarment provide adequate protection against waste, fraud, abuse, poor performance and noncompliance, according to a Federal Register notice published Dec. 27.

The withdrawal of the rule elicited praise from Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, a Washington trade association.

'The coalition fought long and hard for the repeal of this rule because it never had any basis in protecting the sanctity of government contracting,' Allen said. 'It was always purely political in nature, and we are happy the FAR Council recognized it as such.'

Allen said there was some concern that the FAR Council would submit a revised rule that was less demanding.

'Our position has always been that more than sufficient safeguards are in place and work well,' he said. 'The government has effective steps to ensure they do business with reputable companies.'

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