What Was the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS)?
The EPLS was replaced by the System for Award Management (SAM)
The Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) was a database that was maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA).
The list identified suppliers and vendors excluded from receiving Federal contracts, certain subcontracts, and certain types of Federal financial and non-financial assistance and benefits. The EPLS also issued any administrative and statutory exclusions across the entire government, and individuals barred from entering the United States.
The EPLS was replaced on November 21, 2012, by the System for Award Management (SAM). SAM combined federal procurement system, and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance into one new system.
Original Purpose of the EPLS
The General Services Administration (GSA) launched the EPLS in January 2007. The system was to contain information entered by Federal agencies that identified individuals and businesses excluded from Federal Government procurement and non-procurement programs and the applicable authority for the exclusion.
Due to its web-based interface, EPLS was easy to use and allowed ad hoc searches, and report capabilities. It also made possible integration with the Central Contractor Registration system to allow Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) numbers to be used.
There were five categories of individuals and businesses covered by the EPLS system:
- Individuals excluded or disqualified under a Federal agency's codification of the Common Rules on Non-procurement suspension and debarment, or otherwise declared ineligible from receiving certain Federal assistance and/or benefits.
- Individuals debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, or otherwise declared ineligible from participating in Federal procurement programs.
- Individuals barred or suspended from acting as sureties for bid and performance bond activity in procurement programs.
- Individuals barred from entering the United States.
- Individuals that may be subject to sanctions with regards to 31 CFR Parts 500-599 and any relevant sub-parts.
Users of the EPLS
The GSA identified a number of specific users of the EPLS and the subsequent System for Award Management (SAM) application. These included:
- Contracting officers and other Federal, State, and local government employees involved in procuring goods and services
- Federal, State, local, or foreign agency responsible for prosecuting, enforcing, or carrying out a statute, rule, regulation, or order where the records clearly indicate a violation of civil or criminal law or regulation.
- Federal, State or local agency, financial institution or a healthcare or industry provider that administers assistance programs or benefits, when the information is needed to determine eligibility.
- To a formal complaints examiner, an equal employment opportunity investigator, an arbitrator, or union representative, investigating or settling a grievance, complaint, or appeal filed by an employee, when the information is needed to decide the issues.
- To a requesting Federal, State or local agency, financial institution, or a healthcare or industry provider in connection with hiring or retaining an employee or issuing a security clearance.
Errors on the Database
Before a record was placed on the EPLS database, the individual or business concerned would be informed that their names would be contained in the EPLS.
That notification came from the agency that took the action to exclude them from Federal procurement and non-procurement programs. If any individual or business wished to contest the record being placed on the EPLS, then they had to contact the agency who took the action.
Issues with the EPLS
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) undertook a study of the EPLS in 2009. The reason for the study was to investigate allegations that had indicated that excluded parties on the EPLS had been able to receive federal contracts.
As a result, the GAO was asked to determine whether these allegations could be substantiated and to identify the key causes of any improper awards and other payments detected.
The 2009 report found that:
- A number of suppliers who had been excluded for offenses such as national security violations and tax fraud were still received funding for a number of reasons. These included failure on the part of agency officials to search the EPLS or search errors which did not reveal the exclusions.
- Businesses and individuals that were able to circumvent the terms of their exclusions by operating under different identities.
- Most of the improper payments made were attributed to ineffective management of the EPLS database, or to control weaknesses at both excluding and procuring agencies.
- No single agency was monitoring the content or function of the database and that agencies were not consistently inputting timely or accurate data related to the parties they excluded.
- EPLS entries contained incomplete information, the database had insufficient search capabilities, and the listed points of contact for further information about exclusions were incorrect.
Partly due to the GAO report, the EPLS was replaced by the System for Award Management (SAM).
This article has been updated by Gary Marion, Logistics and Supply Chain Expert for The Balance.