21. OMB COMPILING NATION-WIDE BLACKLIST OF GRANT
The Office of Management and Budget is compiling
a master computer list of those debarred or suspended from participating in government
agency grant programs. Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a public interest
group that monitors the budget office, said the goal of reducing waste, fraud
and abuse is laudable but warned that the program "can become a hit list
for individuals and organizations that the administration does not agree with."
controversial program will cover a wide range of transactions, including grants,
cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, loans and subsidies. It would
apply to both recipients of federal funds and those "doing business"
with them. The system is expected to be fully operational by May, 1988.
the new law (Reagan's Executive Order 12549), 20 agencies which disburse $100
billion in grants will forward their debarred lists to the OMB. The master list
will be computerized and placed on a nation-wide automated telephone system. Regulations
published in the Federal Register (5/29/87) say that the master list will contain
names and "other information" about currently debarred or suspended
grant recipients, as well as about those whose debarment is pending.
the directive, federal, state and local agencies, private organizations and individuals
handling federal funds must check the list before providing anyone a federally-aided
service, grant, loan or other assistance such as day care. Any person or organization
that fails to check the list may also be placed on it. In addition, employees
of federally-funded agencies and organizations, as well as anyone "doing
business" with them or wishing to do business with them must submit annual
certifications that neither they nor anyone "associated with" them are
on the list, or being considered for it.
Grounds for placement on the list
include 1) violating any term of a "public agreement," regardless of
whether federal funds were involved; 2) failure to repay a government-backed or
assisted loan, such as a home mortgage, student or crop loan; 3) "failure
to perform" or poor performance on a grant or other "public agreement;"
4) lack of "business integrity or honesty" or conviction of "business"
crimes; 5) debarment or suspension by a public agency at any level of government,
federal, state, or local.
One can also make the blacklist if one: is a public
school teacher and goes on strike despite a no-strike clause in one's contract;
performs poorly on any grant from a public agency, regardless of whether federal
funds were involved; does business with anyone known to be on OMB's new list.
agencies already keep records of those who violate rules of grants, using the
lists to prevent such recipients from getting additional grants from the agency
involved. But, under current law those same recipients may obtain grants from
other federal agencies. Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX), chair of the House Government
Operations Committee warned that the OMB's implementing guidelines "endorse
guilt by association, reverse the presumption that a person is innocent until
proven guilty, and define the operative offenses so vaguely as to potentially
encompass many entirely legitimate activities."
NEW YORK TIMES, 12/23/87, "U.S. Plans to Make Master List ...", by Martin
Tolchin; OMB WATCH 1987 ANNUAL REPORT; FOUNDA TION NEWS, July/August 1987, page