COLLINGSWOOD, N.J. -- MyGovWatch.com, a clearinghouse for intelligence about government collection contracts, is observing today, National Freedom of Information Day, by announcing a lawsuit brought by its operating company against the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for withholding information about a government contract in violation of the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The lawsuit was filed by an attorney on behalf of Net Gain Marketing, Inc. (NGM), operator of the MyGovWatch website. The case relates to a procurement for tax collection that resulted in awards to four Private Collection Agencies (PCAs). The lawsuit seeks to compel the IRS to disclose contract pricing information in compliance with FOIA. The IRS has already released redacted versions of the contracts. Other Federal buyers of collection services typically release this information, often publicly within the procurement process.
In 2012, MyGovWatch previously sued the Treasury Department, the Federal department under which the IRS operates, when it balked at providing contract pricing information and a list of companies that submitted an offer in response to a 2011 solicitation related to non-tax debts. A Federal judge awarded a summary judgment in favor of the website, and the information was later posted and made available to website users.
“This is another example of a low-level Federal bureaucrat abusing their power and attempting to legislate from a cubicle,” said Nick Bernardo, owner of NGM, the publisher of the MyGovWatch website. “There’s no question the IRS hired four reputable, quality PCAs for this work, but the public has a legitimate interest in knowing the prices the government pays for various products and services, and should not have to hire lawyers to know them. The law is clear that solicitations for Federal prime contracts and subcontracts and their results should be transparent, and anything short of that will not be tolerated.”
Simultaneously, MyGovWatch.com has announced that any new users of the site that sign up for a free trial of the site will receive any information obtained about the IRS contracting initiative when it becomes available at no cost, even if the information becomes available after the trial period expires.
National Freedom of Information Day is part of Sunshine Week, an initiative started by the American Society of News Editors. Its goal is to teach the public about why excessive and unnecessary secrecy is dangerous to a free society. The Federal government enacted the national Freedom of Information Act in 1966, and, since then, every state in the nation has adopted its own version. With few exceptions, information about how government agencies make buying decisions is public by definition, to include signed contracts, evaluation scorecards, lists of bidders, winning proposals, and performance reports. MyGovWatch.com aggregates those documents and makes key items, like company names and line-item pricing, searchable by users. The site also allows users to know what’s out for bid now and find out about future purchases in advance.
Researchers at MyGovWatch.com concluded in 2014 that an estimated 67% of government and higher education requests for proposals (RFPs) fall into one of three categories: new contracts, where the buyer did not previously have a vendor for the service; contracts in which a vendor or vendors replaced the incumbent(s); or, contracts in which the buyer added an additional vendor.
MyGovWatch.com is the only information repository of its kind, fully dedicated to providing valuable information to users specifically about higher education and government purchasing activity in specific lines of business.