Is There Stale or Ambiguous Data in SAM.gov?

Posted by Joe Stefansky on March 31, 2022 in OFAC, SAM,

As one of the two primary exclusion screening lists against which federal contractors are required to check routinely, the health care industry relies on the accuracy of SAM.gov database to make hiring and retention decisions virtually every month. However, a recent review of the SAM.gov database revealed some possible data discrepancies when compared against the Treasury/OFAC list of sanctioned individuals and entities (known as Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDNs)), which is included in the SAM.gov database.

Unlike the other primary federal exclusion list, HHS-OIG’s  List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE),  which is compiled and published by HHS OIG , the SAM.gov database is a procurement repository maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA)  and  reflects the sanction, exclusion and debarment actions  by multiple federal agencies, including the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). OFAC is the department of the U.S. Treasury that is responsible for facilitating compliance with the U.S. foreign policy and national security agendas. OFAC works to bring those involved in narcotics, terrorism, and other undesirable activities that threaten U.S. national security into line.

Below is an example of the discrepancies between the OFAC sanctions listed in the SAM.gov database and the OFAC sanctions maintained separately by Treasury for the same time period:

Treasury/OFAC exclusions were shown at 9,052 total, (4,649 individuals and 4,403 entities) in the OFAC file maintained by Treasury.  However, SAM.gov records reflect that Treasury/OFAC excluded a total of 20,220 (10,244 individuals and 9,976). In short, it appears that the SAM.gov database continues to reflect 11,168 records that should have been removed.  

This noted discrepancy can put employers and state Medicaid programs in a difficult position as they make a good faith effort to meet the federal exclusion screening requirements included in Medicare and Medicaid contracts. As noted in New York’s Draft Medicaid contract.

Pursuant to 42 CFR 455.436, the Contractor shall:

  1. confirm the identity and determine the exclusion status of any employee in the capacity of general manager, business manager, administrator, director, or other individual who exercises operational or managerial control over, or who directly or indirectly conducts the day-to-day operations at initial hiring and any person with an ownership or control interest or who is an agent or managing employee of the Contractor through routine checks of Federal and State databases. These include the Social Security Administration’s Death Master file (SSDM), the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES), the Excluded Parties List System or the System for Award Management (EPLS/SAM), and either the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), the NYS OMIG Exclusion List, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions List and any such other databases as the Secretary may prescribe; and
  2. check the LEIE, the EPLS/SAM and NYS OMIG Exclusions List and the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions List no less frequently than monthly.

Date Approximations in OFAC/SDN List

Streamline Verify also noted the lack of specificity in the OFAC/SDN list through the use of “circa” dates and approximated dates, finding 77 circa dates (for example, DOB circa 1948) as well as 116 date ranges.  

In guidance issued by the Treasury, the use of “circa” and approximated dates and date ranges has been acknowledged and addressed in some detail.  For example, dates of birth of foreign terrorists may not be known precisely, so an approximated date or date range may be represented as a circa date, such as “DOB circa 1964” or by a date range.  Dates and date periods have been addressed by the Treasury by using a highly structured model that is better able to store any kind of known or uncertain date or period in a consistent manner.

As noted in the Treasury guidance,

 “Any of the start, end or duration details may be marked as approximate (for example, if it is not certain that the relevant date falls in the range indicated). If required, the range can be set to a single date and flagged as “approximate”. However, OFAC will be limiting the use of this functionality as it leaves the definition of “approximate” to be subjectively determined by each user. This is similar to the existing “circa” values on the SDN list and OFAC has made every attempt to eliminate the use of approximate or circa dates.”

Conclusion

This is not the first time that Streamline Verify has noted SAM.gov or OFAC/SDN potential discrepancies and data ambiguities  in the last year. Both the prior and current discrepancies noted between SAM.gov and the OFAC data may be attributable to administrative error or delay in updates. However, in light of the impact on health plans that rely on accurate and current databases to comply with federal screening requirements and to make informed hiring decisions, such discrepancies can increase risk to health care organizations. With imprecise data to rely upon, employers may find increased numbers of matches that may require additional investigation to resolve. Fortunately, with the multiple databases used by Streamline Verify to cross-verify potential matches, the risk for their clients to hire or retain ineligible individuals is reduced. Also, unless a health care entity works extensively overseas, most US companies have lower exposure to individuals and entities on the OFAC/SDN list than other parties found on other federal or state exclusion lists.

About Joe Stefansky

About Joe Stefansky

Joe Stefansky has a keen sense of business opportunities in complex problems, using technology to transform difficulty into efficiency. The CEO and founder of Streamline Verify specializes in solving compliance, legal and administrative issues through intuitively designed software that reduces costs and saves time.

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