In November of 2015, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) began a three-month transition to a new downloadable file type for the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) data. As of mid February 2016, the OIG had not yet completed the transition and announced it would extend the transition period for another two months.
Currently, the OIG provides the LEIE data in monthly supplemental files in DBF format, which can only be opened using Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access and which is contained within self-extracting/compressed files (EXE and ZIP). The purpose of the transition period is to change the LEIE data file format from its current format into raw data in comma-separated value (CSV) format. The OIG is eliminating the DBF, EXE, and ZIP files by April 2016. With the update, the OIG plans to offer the CSV file with a 4-digit birth year and will give users one month to test the new file format. It is important to note that all LEIE fields and data in the CSV format will remain the same.
During the transition period the OIG will be providing both the DBF format and the CSV format. Users are strongly encouraged to download and test the CSV file during this time. In the case an issue arises when using the file format, the OIG invites users to report the concerns to them through an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), which was specifically created so the agency could receive feedback about the user experience. While the OIG does not intend to respond to every email received, it has announced that will post answers to frequently asked questions on its website.
Proper sanction screening is a very high priority issue area for the OIG. A recently issued Special Advisory Opinion addresses the scope and frequency of screening employees and contractors against the LEIE and stresses the importance of sanction screening. It also states that when checking the LEIE, providers should maintain documentation of the name searches performed in order to verify results of potential hits and to evidence that proper screening was performed. Since the LEIE is updated monthly, the agency suggested screening each month to “best minimize potential overpayment and [civil monetary penalty] liability.” Additionally, the agency will take action only on parties on the LEIE and have no interest or authority to address confirmed hits on the General Services Administration (GSA) System for Award Management (SAM) debarment list.
Although the OIG continues to work on making the LEIE user-friendly, it still requires considerable effort to sanction screen large numbers of parties and resolve potential hits. Using a vendor search engine service continues to be an economical method to remain current and to reduce the likelihood of errors. The GSA SAM system for screening for debarment actions by the federal government continues to be very user unfriendly and requires an inordinate amount of man hours to properly screen and resolve the potential hits. Jillian Bower, of the Compliance Resource Center, notes that many of their clients believe that search engine services have limitations in that they provide only the means to identify potential hits and no resolutions to them. She said “That resolution is proving to be the biggest problem in use of resources and for making mistakes in properly confirming or dismissing them. As such, many turn to ‘outsourcing’ the entire process to a vendor as a very economical way to not only screen applicable federal and state databases but also to resolve those potential hits and provide a certified report of the results.”
Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.
Copyright © 2016 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.