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In Scope or Out of Scope
By Cathy Kirkaldy on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 09:45 am:

I am a contracting professional with a transportation agency in the Midwest. Our agency has awarded a FFP contract for project management consulting services. In the contract it appears that our scope of work is very vague and sometimes not able to be interpreted. My question is: How would you determine what changes are in scope or out of scope? Are there any clear questions that you can ask yourself or others to make this determination? Such as would you ask :

Was the PMC aware of the risk when developing their proposal?
Does the origin of the change stem from contract language?
Is there a significant change in the nature or scope of work?
Are the consultant's services significantly expanded or increased?
I ask this question because we need to develop a clear understanding when we determine if a change is in scope or out of scope.  Thanking you in advance for all comments

By bob antonio on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 12:22 pm:


In 1989, I did a major review of the federal government's civilian agency contracts. For every contract, we looked to see if the work had been done. To do that, we had to determine what work was actually expected when the statement of work was written. There were several cases where the statement of work was so vague that the requiring office could not explain what they were trying to acquire. In those cases, we could not decide what was beyond the original intent of the contract because we could not determine what the original intent was.

That sounds like your predicament. However, in the federal contracts I am talking about the contracts were cost plus fixed-fee contracts. This eased the business problems that a firm-fixed price contract with a vague statement of work would cause.

Since the courts will hold that the writer of a statement of work bears the responsibility for its clarity, you are on the defensive.

I would try to identify, accumulate, and deciper the surrounding facts at the time of the meeting of the minds for the procurement. That would be around the date of agreement and not subsequently--unless things were changed informally since then. Here are some things I would do:

1) go back to the original statement of work that your requiring activity wrote and try to identify any clarifying documents that would add to their intent.

2) if your solicitation and award process provided an opportunity for a public question and answer session between the requiring activity and offerors about the statement of work, I would look for any written documentation or tapes of that discussion.

3) I would look at the contractor's proposal to see what it believed it was selling. If your lucky, maybe there was some pricing information that would support the actual work they thought they were to do.

I have provided access to a number of tools for writing statements of work on a section of the "Guidance" page to this site. I think it is called "Planning and Performance Statements of Work." The federal government has spent a lot of effort trying to improve the way it tells offerors what it wants. These things are fairly generic and should help your organization in future procurements.

By Rita Sampson on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 12:25 pm:

I've always used the premise that if something was reasonably anticipated by both parties at the time of award, it probably (but not always) is within scope. For example, if I have a contract for a consultant to provide facilitiation and support services during an A-76 cost study I could reasonably determine that a delivery order for an activity based cost model for the current operation under study was within the contract scope. On the other hand, I do not think it would be reasonable to write a delivery order to provide all computer hardware and software for use by the competitive sourcing office.

By formerfed on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 01:32 pm:


Nothing precludes rewriting the SOW with the contractor. Use the tools Bob suggests for help. Just a suggestion.

By Eric Ottinger on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 06:07 pm:


A FFP for a consulting contract doesn't compute for me. Is this perchance a fixed price per labor hour contract?


By bob antonio on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 07:13 pm:


I thought that might be the case too. Welcome back.