22/09/2020

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Citing FIU bridge collapse, feds propose 10-year debarment for FIGG

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Dive Quick: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has suspended FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc. from participating...

Dive Quick:

  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has suspended FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc. from participating in any federally funded initiatives and has proposed a ten-calendar year debarment period of time for the business, in accordance to U.S. Division of Transportation correspondence. The firm’s suspension went into impact July 14.
  • The letter from USDOT Acting Inspector Basic Howard R. “Skip” Elliott to lawmakers explained the FHWA was using the action versus FIGG “to defend the general public curiosity.” He explained the agency’s final decision was based mostly on FIGG’s conduct associated to the Florida Worldwide College (FIU) bridge collapse in Miami in March 2018.
  • FIGG has 30 times to contest the FHWA’s action, at which position it will be able to argue versus debarment. If FIGG does not contest the action, then a Suspending and Debarring Official (SDO) will make a final decision about debarment based mostly on available info.

Dive Perception:

The FHWA prohibitions on contracting with FIGG during the suspension extends to all federal agencies, barring all but subcontracts of $30,000 or less, and applies to condition initiatives that acquire federal money. It are unable to be waived except if the head of an agency, in accordance to the Basic Services Administration, states in producing a persuasive rationale as to why it should keep undertaking business with the engineering business. 

In accordance to FHWA guidelines, a suspension typically are unable to final far more than 18 months, although the standard time frame is restricted to twelve months whilst the federal government conducts its investigation. The standard duration of debarment is three yrs.

An NTSB investigation of the deadly pedestrian bridge collapse at FIU observed that the possible brings about of the incident were being FIGG’s design and style and load potential errors. An OSHA investigation stopped small of declaring a trigger of the collapse, although both of those agencies faulted other contractors and consultants that they established had a role to engage in in the secure execution of the venture.

The new bridge collapsed on to autos stopped below it, killing five folks on the ground and 1 employee who was on the bridge. A number of others were being wounded.

Whilst the material that the IG despatched to Congress final 7 days contained info about the FHWA’s action versus FIGG, the key function of the communication was to supply lawmakers with a summary of the organizations — 41 contractors, subcontractors, consultants and material suppliers — involved in the design and style, construction and inspection of the FIU bridge, which includes info on any safety violations and prior felony convictions.

The IG observed that none of the 41 corporations, which includes FIGG, had previous federal felony convictions nor had been disqualified from participating in federal initiatives. OSHA cited 17 of the organizations for safety violations concerning January 2010 and January 2020, and five were being cited in relationship with the FIU collapse.

Design Dive achieved out to FIGG for comments but received no response by press time. 

The most prevalent explanations for suspension and debarment, explained lawyer Brian Wood with Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP in Washington, D.C., are:

  • fraud
  • intentional, willful noncompliance
  • misconduct
  • bribes
  • collusion
  • bid-rigging

With no being aware of the facts of the FHWA’s case versus FIGG, Wood explained, the ten yrs of debarment that the government has proposed seems severe. “And, for that issue, it is a small bit peculiar to see a debarment for a little something like this — basically [alleged] experienced negligence.”  

FIGG can obstacle the debarment energy and even ask for a reconsideration down the road if the debarment essentially goes via, Wood explained, especially because the proposed ten yrs is so lengthy. In addition, he explained, the government could arrive up with a various punitive measure, probably barring FIGG from involvement in specified kinds of initiatives. 

“There is a ton of discretion crafted into the principles for that,” Wood explained.

Even if FIGG is not debarred, the lawyer explained, the corporation could be subject matter to a “de facto debarment,” in which case government agencies could downgrade its score based mostly on past overall performance, specifically the FIU bridge collapse, and not award the business work. 

FIGG’s present-day initiatives shouldn’t be impacted by the suspension, but even all those aren’t always secure, he explained. “That will not mean they won’t be able to search for a rationale to terminate [them from the venture].” 

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