August 7, 2020

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

Dive Brief:

  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has suspended FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc. from collaborating in any federally funded projects and has proposed a ten-year debarment period for the firm, according to U.S. Division of Transportation correspondence. The company’s suspension went into effect July 14.
  • The letter from USDOT Acting Inspector General Howard R. “Skip” Elliott to lawmakers said the FHWA was using the action versus FIGG “to safeguard the general public interest.” He said the agency’s decision was primarily based on FIGG’s conduct similar to the Florida Global College (FIU) bridge collapse in Miami in March 2018.
  • FIGG has 30 days to contest the FHWA’s action, at which issue it will be ready to argue versus debarment. If FIGG does not contest the action, then a Suspending and Debarring Official (SDO) will make a decision about debarment primarily based on offered details.

Dive Insight:

The FHWA prohibitions on contracting with FIGG during the suspension extends to all federal businesses, barring all but subcontracts of $30,000 or significantly less, and applies to point out projects that obtain federal cash. It can’t be waived unless the head of an agency, according to the General Providers Administration, states in producing a persuasive rationale as to why it must keep undertaking business with the engineering firm. 

In accordance to FHWA pointers, a suspension typically can’t very last much more than 18 months, though the regular time body is minimal to twelve months when the federal federal government conducts its investigation. The regular length of debarment is a few several years.

An NTSB investigation of the deadly pedestrian bridge collapse at FIU found that the probable leads to of the incident have been FIGG’s structure and load capability glitches. An OSHA investigation stopped limited of declaring a cause of the collapse, though both businesses faulted other contractors and consultants that they established had a function to enjoy in the risk-free execution of the job.

The new bridge collapsed on to vehicles stopped below it, killing 5 persons on the ground and just one employee who was on the bridge. Numerous many others have been wounded.

Even though the product that the IG sent to Congress very last 7 days contained details about the FHWA’s action versus FIGG, the primary intent of the interaction was to deliver lawmakers with a summary of the firms — 41 contractors, subcontractors, consultants and product suppliers — involved in the structure, building and inspection of the FIU bridge, together with details on any basic safety violations and prior criminal convictions.

The IG found that none of the 41 corporations, together with FIGG, had past federal criminal convictions nor had been disqualified from collaborating in federal projects. OSHA cited seventeen of the firms for basic safety violations among January 2010 and January 2020, and 5 have been cited in connection with the FIU collapse.

Design Dive achieved out to FIGG for responses but obtained no response by press time. 

The most widespread reasons for suspension and debarment, said legal professional Brian Wood with Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP in Washington, D.C., are:

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

Without the need of knowing the information of the FHWA’s scenario versus FIGG, Wood said, the ten several years of debarment that the federal government has proposed looks extreme. “And, for that make any difference, it is a minor little bit peculiar to see a debarment for a little something like this — basically [alleged] skilled negligence.”  

FIGG can challenge the debarment hard work and even request a reconsideration down the road if the debarment basically goes by, Wood said, specially due to the fact the proposed ten several years is so lengthy. In addition, he said, the federal government could appear up with a different punitive measure, possibly barring FIGG from involvement in selected kinds of projects. 

“There is a good deal of discretion designed into the regulations for that,” Wood said.

Even if FIGG is not debarred, the legal professional said, the enterprise could be issue to a “de facto debarment,” in which scenario federal government businesses could downgrade its score primarily based on previous overall performance, specifically the FIU bridge collapse, and not award the firm function. 

FIGG’s present-day projects shouldn’t be impacted by the suspension, but even people aren’t always risk-free, he said. “That will not signify they are unable to glimpse for a rationale to terminate [them from the job].”