Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, have introduced legislation to identify and address potential conflicts of interest within the Federal contracting community.

The Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act would require Federal contractors to disclose other business relationships with entities that conflict with the work that a Federal agency has hired them to do. Private organizations that currently hold contracts with the U.S. government would also have to disclose new potential business that opposes the ongoing services they are providing.

“When private companies hired by the Federal government fail to disclose outside relationships that could conflict with public interests, taxpayers and Federal agencies have no way of knowing whether a company is working in their best interests,” said Sen. Peters in a press release.

“This bipartisan, commonsense legislation will ensure Federal consultants and contractors disclose other parts of their business that conflict with the work they are bidding to perform for the government. This will ensure taxpayer dollars are being used to hire contractors that are focused on working in the best interest of the American people,” Sen. Peters said.

The Federal government contracts with private companies to support a wide array of important government functions, from the delivery of services to the approval of prescription drugs. However, these same contractors conduct business with other organizations and entities which could lead to questions regarding their reliability. For example, management consulting corporation McKinsey & Company paid nearly $600 million last year to settle charges over its role in the nation’s opioid epidemic, while at the same time working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We have directly seen the danger that conflicts of interest can pose in government contracting, such as when the consulting firm McKinsey worked for opioid manufacturers at the same time it was working for the FDA on opioid-related projects,” Sen. Hassan said in a press release.

“Our bipartisan bill would help ensure that companies that enter into a contract with the government are acting in the best interest of the American people,” she said. “I will keep working across the aisle to move this bill forward and crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars in the Federal government.”

“Federal contractors are entrusted to provide critical goods and services to the Federal government as it serves the American people. If we don’t know whether they are serving other, potentially conflicting interests, we can’t be confident that Americans are getting exactly what they pay for,” said Senator Grassley. “We’ve put together a good government bill that takes steps to eliminate these potential conflicts of interest to rebuild public trust in our contracting process.”

In addition, the legislation also would require Federal agencies to assess and update their procedures for determining whether contractors could have a conflict of interest. The bill would also ensure Federal contractors are aware of disclosure requirements and how working with agencies could impact other parts of their business.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.