Monday, August 13, 2012

Feds Implement New Online Debarment Checking System

At the end of July, the website for checking whether a business is debarred or suspended from doing business with the federal government, the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS), was officially replaced by a new System for Award Management (SAM), and the transition has not been without its rough patches. 
Transition from EPLS to SAM:  As of Monday, August 13, 2012, the old EPLS system is still available at, although likely not for long.  Last week, users going to EPLS were automatically redirected to the new system (, and encounted a confusing security error in the process. 

Key changes from EPLS:  The good news is that the new SAM web site is designed to include all the functionality and information formerly found in EPLS, and you can still search for suspended/debarred companies without registering. There are a couple of key differences you'll likely notice when searching, however:
  • Search shows all companies (including those in good standing):  Unlike EPLS, SAM shows a search result for anyone matching your search, whether or not they're suspended/debarred (i.e. have an "exclusion"). Find the specific company you're looking for, click the "View Details" button, verify that it's the same company (comparing addresses works well), and print the more detailed company page for your records.  
  • Search includes individuals:  By default, the search will show individuals that have exclusions along with companies. If you're just looking for companies, you can filter out individuals by selecting the "Entity Management" filter on the left. (There are also additional filters available if you're trying to wade through a lot of results, but use them with care. Remember, with SAM, a search that doesn't turn up the company you're looking for does not necessarily mean that they're in good standing - just that you haven't found their record in the system yet). 
Technical difficulties:  The new SAM web site, developed by IBM, appears to have been experiencing some problems (as others have reported), including delays, site errors, and poor performance. An announcement on the SAM home page warns that the system is "experiencing some performance issues, which may result in a slowness of page loading or maybe even a web page error".

Tips for navigating the new site:  
  • Leave extra time:  Plan to spend some extra time getting familiar with the new site and working around its performance problems. The timeline is unclear for fixing the site's speed and reliability issues, so it might continue to respond slowly for a while.
  • Only open the site in one window:   I experienced some confusion trying to have the site open in multiple windows or tabs at once - sometimes a link you click in one window or tab will also load in another.
  • Try outside of normal business hours:  I had much better luck with the system outside of normal business hours (the home page says the heaviest usage is 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time).
  • Read the help files:  There is a complete SAM Users Guide that is quite comprehensive (and long, at 350 pages), as well as shorter 1-2 page "Quick Start Guides" for various users. If the site won't let you download the files (it blocked me from accessing them for a while), contact me by email and I would be happy to send you the PDF files.
  • Skipping the EPLS security error:  While it seems to be temporarily available now, EPLS was until recently set to redirect visitors to SAM. If you get a security error when trying to access, it's probably trying to redirect you to  You can avoid the security error by going directly to 
Consolidation of federal databases:  In addition to EPLS, SAM consolidates the Central Contractor Registry (CCR), Federal Agency Registration (Fedreg), Online Representations and Certifications Application, and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. 

Comments:  Share your tips, observations, and questions about the new system by either leaving a comment on this blog posting, or by contacting me.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2012 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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