The Contractor Accountability and Transparency Act of 2017 (S. 651), introduced by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., is yet another example of a wrongheaded push by legislators, policy makers, and transparency groups that will do nothing to improve value for taxpayers. In fact, it will have the opposite impact by reducing competition and raising costs for taxpayers. Here’s why.
The bill requires government contractors to post ““machine-readable, searchable copy of” contracts above $150,000, and allows for certain redactions, subject to approval by the contracting officer and OMB. We can guess, that most companies, do not want their competitive and proprietary information posted online for competitors to see. So most contracts will include a redaction request. In addition to adding millions in legal costs for contractors, this will add even more work for overburdened contracting officers and other government staff (e.g. legal). So instead of focusing on helping customers with better requirements, researching suppliers, negotiating deals, they will spend time on even more paperwork.
Additionally, we can be certain this is just one more reason for qualified suppliers to walk away from government business, leading to less competition. The more regulations we impose in the name of transparency and fairness, the more we ensure the federal government marketplace is less competitive. The best suppliers don’t need government business, no matter what the supposed “buying power” of the government.
I hope that this bill, while intended to do right by the public, will be squashed before it ever sees light of day.