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Don’t be late! eSRS Submissions Due October 30, 2017

By Wayne Simpson Prime contractors with contracts containing commercial subcontracting plans are required to file a Summary Subcontract Report (SSR) (formerly Standard Form 295), reporting the accomplishments under their respective subcontracting plans in the Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS) for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2017, no later than October 30, 2017. eSRS is the official Governmentwide System designated for small business subcontracting program reporting.  The system is web-based and is located at http://www.eSRS.gov. The eSRS website contains quick reference materials useful for reporting subcontracting accomplishments. Prime contractors with individual subcontracting plans, and higher-tier large business subcontractors, are required to file an Individual Subcontracting Report (ISR) (formerly Standard Form 294).  These same contractors are required to ensure compliance by lower-tiered subcontractors, and to accept or reject reports filed by these subcontractors.  ISRs are due within 30 calendar days of the following reporting periods: For non-Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and General Services Administration (GSA) Contracts: 1st reporting period: October 1st through March 31st 2nd reporting period: October 1st through September 30th For contracts with DOD, NASA, and GSA Multiple Award Schedule Contracts 1st reporting period: October 1st through March 31st 2nd reporting period: October 1st through September 30th For GSA non-Multiple Award Schedule Contracts: 1st reporting period: October 1st through December 31st 2nd reporting period: October 1st through March 31st 3rd reporting period: October 1st through June 30th 4th reporting period: October 1st through September 30th It is important to note if an eSRS submission is rejected by the contracting agency, the contractor must submit a corrected report within 30 calendar days of the report’s rejection.  It is important to keep a signed copy of your submission on file. If your subcontracting program is becoming more labor intense and resource consuming than you desire, Centre Law & Consulting offers turn-key subcontracting program services.  These services include subcontracting plan preparation and negotiation, surveying existing subcontractors and suppliers to ascertain appropriate size status and socioeconomic procurement preference program category status for eSRS reporting purposes, preparation of justification for goaling shortfalls, and assistance with eSRS submissions.  Increasingly companies are finding outsourcing these efforts is more efficient than using internal resources, using personnel who often performing these functions as a collateral responsibility.  Internal resources are not always sufficiently trained and lack the expertise to ensure these efforts fully comply with Federal requirements and ensure these efforts can withstand the scrutiny of a small business program review by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the contracting agency, or the Defense Contract Audit Agency. About the Author: Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is a seasoned former Federal executive and acquisition professional who is also a highly-motivated and demonstrative small business advocate, with nearly 38 years of Federal Civilian Service with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and its predecessor organization, the Veterans Administration. The post Don’t be late! eSRS Submissions Due October 30, 2017 appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

DOL Raises (and Lowers) Health and Welfare Fringe Rate for Service Contractors

Just when you thought Service Contract Act compliance couldn’t get any more complicated, along comes the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) to prove you wrong. Last week, the DOL issued All Agency Memorandum No. 225 which increased the applicable Health and Welfare (“H&W”) fringe rate from $4.27 per hour to $4.41 effective today, August 1, 2017. While the adjustment to H&W was expected, the DOL’s actions with respect to federal contracts subject to Executive Order 13706 was not. As a refresher, Executive Order 13706 established mandatory paid sick leave for federal contractors. Specifically, the Order requires covered contractors to provide employees with up to 56 hours (seven days) of paid sick leave annually, including for family care and absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The requirement applies to new contracts with the federal government that result from solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2017 (or that are awarded outside the solicitation process on or after January 1, 2017). In an unexpected development, AAM No. 225 noted that “[e]mployer contributions that are made to satisfy the employer’s obligations under EO 13707 may not be credited toward the contractor’s [H&W] obligations under the SCA.” The Memorandum continued, “[t]o comply with EO 13706, an alternate health and welfare rate has been established that excludes the sick leave portion of the calculated health and welfare rate.” Specifically, as of August 1, 2017, the H&W rate for contracts subject to EO 13706 will be $4.13 per hour – i.e., $.28 lower than the $4.41 H&W rate applicable to contracts that do not require paid sick leave. While reasonable minds can differ over whether this reduced rate is in fact necessary “to comply with EO 13706,” fallout from the lower alternative rate will likely be immediate. First, affected employees receiving cash in lieu of benefits will undoubtedly note the reduction in pay. In addition, affected contractors may be required to provide negative contract price adjustments in light of the H&W rate decrease. Finally, it will be necessary for contractors to monitor contracts and task orders to determine the appropriate rate particularly as the EO 13706 becomes more prevalent as legacy contracts expire and are replaced by contracts solicited after January 1, 2017. About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices. The post DOL Raises (and Lowers) Health and Welfare Fringe Rate for Service Contractors appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Do You See a Link Between Maintaining Your GSA Schedule and the Movie Psycho?

By Maureen Jamieson As quoted by Norman Bates in Psycho – “She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” I’m not naming names, but I have worked with many clients who have gone quite mad when working to ensure compliance with their GSA Schedules. Having just celebrated Halloween, I am reminded of some frightening misconceptions surrounding GSA Schedules. Maintaining compliance with your schedule can be a grueling experience. Let’s not forget that blood-curdling stress as you prepare to meet or talk to your Industrial Operations Analyst (IOA) or that bone-chilling realization that you forgot to pay your Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) on time. Do you understand GSA’s current terms and conditions? Do you have the knowledge to ensure compliance with your GSA Schedule? Take Centre’s True or False quiz (with answer key below) beginning with our teams most frequently asked questions: The Maximum Order Threshold (MOT) established for a GSA Schedule contract serves as a limit on the dollar value of individual task orders placed under that Schedule. GSA contractors must accept the Governmentwide purchase card for orders under the micro-purchase threshold ($3,500). The 0.75% Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) is already included in the price of items on GSA Advantage!. An advantage for sellers under Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) orders is that the Government has no audit rights. Participating Dealers on a Schedule contract may bill the government directly on behalf of the Schedule holder. A digital certificate is required to report sales and pay the Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) in the new Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) FAS Sales Reporting System. GSA/VA Schedule Price Lists submitted via the Schedules Input Program (SIP) are automatically posted to GSA Advantage. Multiple modification actions such as economic price adjustments and deletion mods can be combined in one modification and submitted via the eMod system. Only authorized negotiators with signature authority and digital certificates are permitted to submit certain modifications and sign modifications in the eMod system. Digital certificates automatically renew every two years. Not maintaining compliance with the terms and conditions of your GSA Schedule can cost your company money, time and unwanted stress. If you’re feeling GSA stress or just want to learn more about GSA Schedules, consider attending our GSA Boot Camp on November 14 and 15 at Centre’s office located in Tysons, VA. See our website for details. ANSWER KEY: 1) False 2) True 3) True 4) False 5) True 6) True 7) False 8) False 9) True 10) False The post Do You See a Link Between Maintaining Your GSA Schedule and the Movie Psycho? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Trick question, how much does the government charge contractors to register for SAM or any other government database?  The answer is zero, zip, zilch.   There is no charge to register for any government database.  And neither the Wizard of Oz nor any of these vendors can get you no bid contracts from any federal agency. Let’s start with Mr. Pirolo and his FEMA contract registration scheme. FEMA Contract Registration.   Michael Pirolo, the owner of Government Contract Registry (GCR) was sentenced to four years and two months in federal prison for wire fraud. Pirolo served as the president of GCR doing business as FEMA Contract Registration. He employed telemarketers who, during communications with victim-companies, falsely claimed that, for a fee, GCR would “register” the companies with FEMA to enable them to receive preference in obtaining contracts from FEMA.  The telemarketers stated that for a one-time fee of $500, the customer would be registered with FEMA, and that this registration would place the customer on a list of preferred vendors. When the need for a vendor arose, the GCR telemarketer falsely stated that FEMA would bypass the contract acquisition process, contact the registered victim-company, and then offer a no-bid contract.  Mr. Pirolo netted hundreds of thousands of dollars before he was caught. https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdfl/pr/palm-harbor-man-sentenced-prison-defrauding-more-1000-companies-over-fema-contracts SAM Registration.   There are companies who market their services to federal contractors to handle their SAM registration renewals.  These companies require you to give them your password and user name for SAM.  Then they charge you for updating your SAM registration.  Your SAM update is always free on www.sam.gov.   I don’t even have time to tell you about all the GSA Schedule emails I get about the wonderful world of no bid contracts that I will get from GSA once I sign up with this GSA Schedule vendor.  Centre Law has its own PSS Schedule so I see what is going on in the industry.  My inbox is full of these types of emails. Here is a screenshot from one of the many emails from vendors that I receive.  I had to input information on several different screens before I got to the one below.  In my opinion, it looks like an official government website but it is not. It does not appear obvious at first, but the company does note on its website that it is a private company: “U.S. Contractor Administration is not a government agency. We are a third-party federal registration processing firm.”   About the Author Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner
Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.     The post Dirty Rotten Scoundrels appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Department of Labor Publishes Final Rule For OFCCP Sex Discrimination Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule revising its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors found at 41 CFR Part 60-20. The final rule is effective August 15, 2016, is the first significant change to the guidelines since 1970, and it clarifies DOL positions with respect to issues of compensation, pregnancy, and harassment among others. Unsurprisingly given recent amendments to EO 11246, the Rule also provides specific guidance with respect to issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. While it will take time for contractors and counsel to digest all 195 pages of the final Rule notice, one section of immediately accessible interest is the Rule’s appendix concerning “Best Practices,” which, while technically voluntary, provide insight into the DOL’s perspective and priorities with respect to sex discrimination. Specifically, the Rule states the following as best practices for contractors: Avoiding the use of gender-specific job titles such as “foreman” or “lineman” where gender-neutral alternatives are available Designating single-user restrooms, changing rooms, showers, or similar single-user facilities as sex-neutral Providing, as part of the broader accommodations policies, light duty, modified job duties or assignments, or other reasonable accommodations to employees who are unable to perform some of their job duties because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions Providing appropriate time off and flexible workplace policies for men and women Encouraging men and women equally to engage in caregiving-related activities Fostering a climate in which women are not assumed to be more likely to provide family care than men Fostering an environment in which all employees feel safe, welcome, and treated fairly by developing and implementing procedures to ensure that employees are not harassed because of sex. Examples of such procedures include: Communicating to all personnel that harassing conduct will not be tolerated Providing anti-harassment training to all personnel Establishing and implementing procedures for handling and resolving complaints about harassment and intimidation based on sex. While certain of the prescriptions fall squarely within the realm of “Personnel Management 101,” the recommendation regarding gender neutral restrooms and similarly facilities furthers the theme of 2016 as the “Year of The Restroom Wars”. Although the guidance is not intended to substantively change contractors’ legal obligations, contractors would be well counseled to take the opportunity to review their leave and benefit policies and practices to ensure that they are in line with the DOL’s regulations and its emphasis on gender neutrality with respect to all employment practices. About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned counselor in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David has extensive experience representing contractors in affirmative action, Davis-Bacon Act, and Service Contract Act compliance audits. He also represents businesses with regard to wage and hour compliance, DOL audits, and litigation.   The post Department of Labor Publishes Final Rule For OFCCP Sex Discrimination Guidelines appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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David Warner to Be Featured Speaker at Next NCMA Greater Baltimore Meeting

If you are in the Baltimore area, join David Warner at the next NCMA Greater Baltimore Chapter meeting. On May 11, David will be the featured speaker presenting the “Annual Update on Federal Contracting and Legislation” where he’ll look back at the first 100+ days of the Trump Administration and review the latest legislation on the Hill, Executive Order and FAR updates, changes in the small business rules, employment regulations, bid protests, and news on the GSA Schedules. What:   NCMA Greater Baltimore Chapter meeting
Date:    May 11, 2017
Time:    11:30am – 1:00pm (lunch included)
Where: National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, MD Find out more and register at Events page of the chapter’s website. Register before April 24 to receive early bird discounted rates. Attendees at this event earns 1 CPE/CPU to include certificate.
  The post David Warner to Be Featured Speaker at Next NCMA Greater Baltimore Meeting appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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David Warner on Federal Drive with Tom Temin

On September 15, 2015, President Obama signed the Executive Order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to at least seven days per year. It presents both a cost and an administrative burden. David Warner, partner at Centre Law and Consulting joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin to explain what this means to contractors. Hear the interview.   David Warner and Tom Temin. Photo credit: Eric White, Federal News Radio The post David Warner on Federal Drive with Tom Temin appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Cybersecurity for Federal Contractors: You Are Ready, Aren’t You?

Dec. 31, 2017 should be an important date for Department of Defense contractors, since by that date you will be expected to be following the cybersecurity requirements of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-171, “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations.”  Although this deadline specifically applies to the DOD, all federal contractors should be familiar with the NIST standards for Non-Federal Organizations, since every federal agency expects that its contractors will have an adequate security policy in place. The information that is covered is not classified, but might be considered sensitive.  It is the type of business information that a company would keep confidential.  The NIST requirements, outline requirements in the following areas: Access Control Awareness And Training Audit And Accountability Configuration Management Identification And Authentication Incident Response Maintenance Media Protection Personnel Security Physical Protection Risk Assessment Security Assessment System And Communications Protection System And Information Integrity The requirements are logical, and the NIST publication breaks down each of the categories into “Security Requirements” that every organization should be doing in any case.  For example, under category 2, Awareness Training, the Basic Security Requirements list the following: Ensure that managers, systems administrators, and users of organizational information systems are made aware of the security risks associated with their activities and of the applicable policies, standards, and procedures related to the security of organizational information systems. Ensure that organizational personnel are adequately trained to carry out their assigned information security-related duties and responsibilities. Provide security awareness training on recognizing and reporting potential indicators of insider threat. Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) 252.204-7012  Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting, is the source of the December 31, 2017 requirement.  While the NIST document includes incident response requirements as part of its standards, DFARS 252.204-7012 also makes explicit that security breaches (“cyber incidents”) must be rapidly reported to the Department of Defense. DOD contractors must have their systems in place to follow these requirements by year end.  But other federal contractors should be ready as well.   About the Author Theodore Banks concentrates his practice on antitrust, compliance, food law, and other corporate matters. Mr. Banks has extensive experience with corporate litigation, including responsibility for contested mergers, environmental contamination, advertising, insurance coverage, products liability, employment law, consumer protection, and packaging and recycling. He has a national reputation for work in corporate compliance and antitrust, and was an early proponent of corporate opt-out suits as plaintiff in antitrust litigation, such as Vitamin, Carbon Dioxide, Corrugated Container, Folding Carton, and Citric Acid Antitrust Litigation, recovering more than $100 million. Through his experience in all aspects of the food industry, Mr. Banks has deep familiarity with the regulatory frameworks and state and federal laws governing food manufacture, distribution, sales, and safety. The post Cybersecurity for Federal Contractors: You Are Ready, Aren’t You? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Count Your Blessings- A Thousand DOL Audit Letters Never Looked So Good

By Tyler Freiberger To much international acclaim, earlier this year Iceland introduced a new equal pay act to fight discrimination against protected classes, particularly historically underpaid women. The introduction of the Act made the cover of Time magazine and garnered wide-spread attention on the 24-hour news networks’ cycles. While the historic Act may warrant such coverage, for domestic industry insiders the celebration of Iceland’s legislative prioritization of gender equality may ring a bit hollow, as the United States’ passed the Equal Pay Act over half a century ago. And, as Centre has discussed in the past, pay discrimination has been illegal ever since. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) made a related show of force on the issue through its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”), issuing a thousand letters to government contractors advising that it may audit contractors for compliance with non-discrimination/affirmative action obligations, including matters of pay equity. Clearly, the global march towards gender equality moves forward, but before we rush toward an “Icelandic model,” there are complicated issues to address. First, there are clear conceptual differences between Iceland’s new model and the United States’ system. The “big move” of the Icelandic law is to demand that employers prove they are not paying women less than men; in contrast, the American system places that burden on the employee attempting to prove their case. Despite that variance in burden of proof, U.S. contractors reading these audit letters from DOL are likely not celebrating an easy road to compliance. In fact, with a recent groundbreaking study out of Stanford, it is clear employers can have a very thin rope to walk when attempting to eliminate a purported “pay gap.” American anti-discrimination laws are based upon the principle that, assuming an absence of discrimination all people will be equally represented and compensated in the workforce. Therefore, if a class of people are underrepresented/under-compensated in a workforce, something is wrong in the employer’s process. Yet, the law is clear that employers cannot make employment decisions based on gender, even if that decision is directly made to further affirmative action goals – i.e., “reverse” discrimination remains illegal even in an affirmative action context. Instead, the employer is meant to study its workforce, identify inequalities, and identify what gaps exist in its process that lead to inequality. Perhaps it is where the employer is recruiting, how it qualifies candidates, who it chooses to make hiring decisions, or what criteria the employer uses to advance current employees.  The hundreds of government contractors recently receiving the OFCCP letters will be performing exactly these analyses. Imagine then, if a hard look at your workforce reflected men earning 7% more an hour than women for doing the exact same job; how do you react? It is expressly unlawful to purposely increase women’s pay 7% more an hour, so necessarily employers must identify what in their processes has caused the inequality.  For context, this is the scenario Uber finds itself in after the aforementioned Stanford study. Upon examining over a million Uber rides in the Chicago area, researchers noted a substantial pay gap between male and female drivers, while “the average of rider ratings of drivers is statistically indistinguishable between genders.” In sum, women are making less money, while performing the same job, with equal customer satisfaction, and being paid through a computer algorithm where driving X distance at Y time results in a computer-generated rate. Discrimination, right? Well, maybe not. What makes the results so interesting is that under the Uber model, riders and drivers are assigned without gender preference; and, simultaneously riders are fined if they reject the driver pre-pickup. This essentially creates a double-blind system of assigning work. Preference for a male driver over a female driver – i.e. canceling a female driver’s pickup – awards the driver and punishes the rider. And, the study shows no (or at most very little) such driver selecting preference. Rather, the data revealed that the largest cause of the pay gap to be arising from the specific (and varying) times men and women decide to drive. Other than amending its scale to pay women more per ride than men, how might we (or Iceland) assert that Uber solve this problem? And is there even a “problem” to solve? If you are an American company sweating over a similar gap in your workforce, we can offer some relief. While American employers should always be exploring these questions, and considering solutions, the “unknown” currently goes in the employer’s favor. In the United States, employees still must present evidence isolating and identifying the discrete element in the hiring or compensation processes that allegedly produces the discriminatory outcome. See EEOC v. Freeman, 961 F. Supp. 2d 783 (D. Md. 2013), aff’d in part sub nom. E.E.O.C. v. Freeman, 778 F.3d 463 (4th Cir. 2015). Still, under either the U.S. or Iceland model, you do not want to be the last to know.   About the Author: Tyler Freiberger
Associate Attorney
Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia.   The post Count Your Blessings- A Thousand DOL Audit Letters Never Looked So Good appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Costs for Filing Bid Protest Denied Even When Agency Does Not Dispute a Meritorious Protest

In a recent GAO decision, Boise Cascade Wood Products, LLC, B-413987.2 (Apr. 3, 2017), the GAO denied a small business’ request for reimbursement of the costs of filing and pursing a bid protest where the protester argued that the agency unduly delayed taking corrective action in the face of a clearly meritorious protest. In this matter, the protester pursued a protest against the Forest Service, which involved both a timber sale and a procurement of services. Specifically, the Forest Service issued a solicitation for a forest stewardship contract, which typically also involves the sale of timber or forest products and the performance of certain services. What gives this decision its interesting twist is that the Forest Service’s implementing regulations provide that when the value of timber removed through the contract exceeds the total value of the services, it shall be considered a contract for the sale of property. As a general matter, sales by a federal agency are not procurements of property or services and are not within the GAO’s bid protest jurisdiction. However, the GAO will consider protests concerning sales by a federal agency if that agency has agreed in writing to have protests decided by the GAO; the Forest Service has expressly agreed to this, creating a non-statutory agreement with the GAO. In this case, as the value of the timber significantly exceeded the value of the services, the agency determined to solicit the contract as a timber sale. As such, the GAO found that the cost reimbursement request was precluded by its regulations, which establish that it will not recommend the payment of protest costs in connection with non-statutory protests. About the Author: Heather Mims
Associate Attorney
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.   The post Costs for Filing Bid Protest Denied Even When Agency Does Not Dispute a Meritorious Protest appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Cooperating with DOL Investigation Does Not Protect You from Debarment

On December 28, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) filed a complaint with the DOL Office of Administrative Law Judges seeking debarment of a contractor for violation of the Service Contract Labor Standards (formerly the Service Contract Act). The contractor, Restaurant Associates LLC, runs the cafeteria in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Even though Restaurant Associates won a seven year contract extension in December 2015 to continue operating the cafeteria, the company would be prohibited from bidding on future government contracts but would be permitted to retain that contract through the extension. The DOL’s investigation began in July when they first alleged that Restaurant Associates violated the SCA by misclassifying hundreds of workers. However, what makes this case particularly interesting is that the company had no history of previous SCA violations and fully cooperated with the DOL investigation. In complying with the DOL investigation, the company agreed to and did pay $1,008,302 in back wages for 674 cafeteria workers. Despite paying the back wages, the DOL is now seeking to debar the contractor. Perhaps the DOL is seeking debarment based on the circumstances surrounding the DOL investigation. The investigation first began after a complaint was submitted to the DOL alleging that Restaurant Associates unlawfully changed worker job classifications to avoid giving raises that were contained in the December 2015 contract renewal. After the investigation, the DOL found that the company had improperly classified workers both by paying them for lower-paying jobs than they actually performed and by requiring employees to work prior to their scheduled starting times without compensation. This will be an interesting case to follow as it develops. In the meantime, you can read the DOL Complaint and the DOL news release from the July investigation. About the Author: Heather Mims
Associate Attorney
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.   The post Cooperating with DOL Investigation Does Not Protect You from Debarment appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

Communication, Consistency and … the OFCCP?

By David Warner, As most federal contractors are aware, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) is the agency responsible for ensuring that contractors and subcontractors doing business with the U.S. government comply with affirmative action and non-discrimination obligations under federal laws, executive orders, and regulations. In September 2016, the Government Accounting Office (“GAO”) issued a report recommending that OFCCP review its compliance assistance efforts to identify opportunities for enhancing contractors’ understanding of their obligations. To provide the opportunity for contractors to offer their perspectives while implementing the GAO’s recommendation, in 2017 the OFCCP conducted three “Compliance Assistance Town Halls,” followed by three “stakeholder meetings” in Washington DC, in January of this year. Last month, the agency issued its resulting “Town Hall Action Plan,” which identified three over-arching areas of focus – training, communication, and trust – as well as three responsive initiatives: Review and enhance contractor compliance assistance materials Assess and improve the quality of contractor and compliance officer training and education Increase transparency and communication with agency stakeholders. Of most interest (at least to this author), is the “transparency and communication” initiative, which the OFCCP expects to include a “Bill of Rights” styled, What Can Contractors Can Expect, document that will “outline certain OFCCP principles that contractors can expect to exist during an engagement with OFCCP.” They identified these principles as including, but not limited to, “such things as timeliness, accuracy, communication, confidentiality, and professionalism.” Perhaps more important than the aspirational bromides, however, is the effort to “achieve consistency across regional and district offices” through the use of a Predetermination Notice (PDN) in those instances where the agency believes it finds evidence of potential discrimination. The use of PDNs prior to the issuance of a Notice of Violations (NOV) is intended to encourage communication between contractor and OFCCP and to allow the opportunity to respond with supplemental information. Also, per the Action Plan, “regional discretion is no longer permitted and the national office will review all PDNs to ensure appropriate consistency and uniformity.” Time will – of course – tell; but, for those of us interacting regularly with the agency, an effort to achieve “consistency and uniformity” as to the investigative approach across the nation’s various regions and districts would be a welcome development. Similarly, promised updates to long outdated Technical Assistance Guides should help contractors who might be relatively unfamiliar with the OFCCP and its processes to stay clear of compliance challenges.   About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.   The post Communication, Consistency and … the OFCCP? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Commercial Supplier Agreement (CSA) and Order-Level Materials (OLMs) Roll-Out

By Julia Coon, The General Services Administration (GSA) started the mass modification roll-out of the Commercial Supplier Agreement (CSA) final rule into all Federal Supply Schedules this week. Mass modification roll-out for Order-Level Materials (OLMs) eligible Schedules will begin following acceptance of the CSA mass modification. Following is a summary of the steps for accepting these mass modifications. Please note that this will be a multi-step process for the OLM authorized Schedules and the CSA mass modification must be accepted before the OLM mass modification will be issued. Step #1: All Schedule contractors must accept the mass modification adding GSAR clause 5552.212-4 Contract Terms and Conditions Commercial Items (JAN 2017)(DEVIATION – FEB 2018)(ALTERNATE I – JAN 2017)(DEVIATION – FEB 2007) incorporating the CSA rule into the contract. This mass modification will also include updated Service Contract Labor Standards (SCLS) Wage Determinations for all solicitations. Step #2: Following acceptance of the CSA mass modification, another mass modification will be issued to contractors with the seven OLM authorized Schedules currently identified as 03FAC, 56, IT70, 71, 84, PSS, and 738X. Please note that GSA may authorize additional Schedules in the future. If you wish to participate, Schedule contractors must accept the mass modification that automatically adds the OLM Special Item Number (SIN) and GSAR clause 552.538-82 Special Ordering Procedures for the Acquisition of Order-Level Materials to the existing contract. Once the mass modification has been accepted, the new OLM SIN will populate across the GSA eTools including GSA eLibrary. Contractors can then start to propose OLMs in response to customer requirements. What are the CSA and OLM Rules? The CSA final rule defines unenforceable obligations and clauses in addition to outlining the order of precedence Contracting Officers and industry must follow. The intent of the rule is to streamline CSA negotiations. The OLM final rule provides Contracting Officers the authority to acquire OLMs when placing task or delivery orders against a Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) or FSS Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA). OLMs are supplies and/or services acquired in direct support of an individual task or delivery order placed against an FSS Schedule or BPA when the supplies and/or services are not known at the time of Schedule or BPA award. Your GSA Schedule contract administrator should be on the lookout for the email from GSA with the PIN number to accept the mass modification. After the CSA mass modification is accepted, be on the lookout for the next PIN number to accept the OLM mass modification.   About the Author: Julia Coon
Consultant
Julia Coon is GSA and VA Contract Consultant at Centre Law & Consulting. Julia works with the GSA/VA team in preparing new schedule proposals and post-award contract administration. She has experience in producing schedule renewal packages, various modification packages, small business subcontracting plans, and updates to GSA pricelists.     The post Commercial Supplier Agreement (CSA) and Order-Level Materials (OLMs) Roll-Out appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

Changes to Trade Agreements Act Thresholds

By Wayne Simpson, CFCM, CSCM New Thresholds for 2018 and 2019 The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has determined and announced new U.S. Dollar Procurement Thresholds implementing U.S. Trade Agreement obligations, effective January 1, 2018, for calendar years 2018 and 2019. The Trade Agreements Act of 1979 (TAA) implements international trade agreements and guarantees non-discriminatory treatment in government procurement. TAA provides the President of the United States authority to waive the Buy American Act and other discriminatory provisions for countries having signed international trade agreements with the United States, and those meeting other criteria such as “Least Developed Countries.”  The President delegates waiver authority to the USTR. The USTR waived the Buy American Act and other discriminatory provisions for acquisitions of eligible products covered by the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement, Free Trade Agreement Acts, and the Israeli Trade Act. Offerors of eligible products receive equal consideration with domestic offers. Perhaps the most significant of the Trade Agreements is the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement.  Free Trade Agreement Acts (FTA) include: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Chile FTA, Singapore FTA, Australia FTA, Morocco FTA, Dominican Republic-Central American FTA, Bahrain FTA, Oman FTA, Peru FTA, Korea FTA, Columbia FTA, and the Panama FTA. Other Trade Agreements include least developed countries designated by the USTR, The Caribbean Basin Trade Initiative, the Israeli Trade Agreement Act, and the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft. Specific thresholds for the respective Trade Agreements is found at Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 25.402. Centre Law and Consulting offers webinars and classroom instruction for the Trade Agreements Act and other contract compliance and administration issues to assist your company.  Centre also offers a wide array of classes taught by attorneys and acquisition professionals to assist you in the Federal Marketplace. CLICK HERE TO SEE/DOWNLOAD A CHART CONTAINING THE NEW TAA THRESHOLDS   About the Author: Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after 38 years of federal service. He served as the Executive Assistant to VA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics where he was the primary staff advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary, who serves concurrently as VA’s Senior Procurement Executive and Debarring Official.     The post Changes to Trade Agreements Act Thresholds appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Changes to Subcontracting Reporting Requirements—Effective November 30, 2017

By Colin Johnson A Final Rule published in the Federal Register July 14, 2016, effective November 1, 2016, amended the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to implement regulatory changes made by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , which provide for a Governmentwide policy on small business subcontracting.  One of the changed requirements effects subcontracting reports submitted after November 30, 2017. Specifically, the language at FAR 19.704(a)(10)(iii), 52.219-9(d)(10)(iii), and 52.219-9 Alternate IV (d)(10)(iii)—was revised to require order-level reporting on single-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts intended for use by multiple agencies in addition to multiple-award contracts in use by multiple agencies and to clarify that the order-level reporting would be required after November 30, 2017, which is when the Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS) will be ready to accommodate this requirement. This rule is implementing the regulatory changes made by the SBA and will allow for the facilitation of allocating subcontracting credits to funding agencies. This allocation will help ensure that funding agencies are recognized and incentivized to promote small business subcontracting on orders.  It is important to keep in mind that these reporting requirements apply to all orders on a single-award IDIQ contract intended for use by multiple agencies regardless of dollar value. These changes will apply to solicitations issued on or after the effective date or at the contracting officer’s discretion in accordance with FAR 1.108(d). FAR Clause 52.219-9, Subcontracting Plan Requirements (JAN 2017), the most recent update of the clause, contains the revised language The post Changes to Subcontracting Reporting Requirements—Effective November 30, 2017 appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

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Centre Staff Speaking at NCMA World Congress

Centre Law & Consulting will be at NCMA World Congress in Chicago from July 23-26, 2017. A number of Centre’s staff have been invited to speak about various federal contracting topics (see below for the topics and times). Centre will also be exhibiting at booth 417. Monday July 24 Corporate Ethics: Lead from the Top or Pay Through the Nose A07 • Managing Contracting Organizations • Room 309/311 • Intermediate David Warner, Partner, Centre Law & Consulting This session will review recent enforcement actions—including whistleblower, qui tam, and debarment processes— with respect to federal contractors. Hear about the current state of the law concerning “hidden” ethical traps for import/export, ITAR/EAR, and TAA, in addition to the more common traps of the False Claims Act and Foreign Corrupt Practices. Corporate ethics are expected to remain a significant concern for contractors even under the new administration. Leave with guidance to understand the current legal landscape and to identify and mitigate such risk. The Acquisition Profession’s Essential Tools: Principles of Interpretation C11 · Foundational Contracting Training • Room 325 · Basic Kenneth Allen, JD, Attorney and Consultant, Semi-Retired Academic
Barbara Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner, Centre Law and Consulting What’s in a word? Lots. Contract interpretation is one of the most important skill sets an acquisition professional can have. Attendees will explore the application of the principles of contract interpretation through real court cases and key federal exceptions. Tuesday, July 25 Protests Happen, so Now What? D12 · Foundational Contracting Training · Room 326 · Intermediate James Phillips Jr, PMP, CFCM, Fellow, Acquisition Consultant, Phillips Training and Consulting Inc.
Barbara S. Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner, Centre Law and Consulting When the word protest is used often, both buyer and seller bristle. This presenter speculates on the thinking that the government buyer goes through that ultimately results in a decision that is sustained. Hear key decision points of actual sustained protests.
ACTIVITY: 8-10 short scenarios will be provided for group discussion. Lessons Gleaned from Successful Protests at GAO F05 · Business Acumen · Room 326 · Basic Barbara S. Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner, Centre Law and Consulting What makes a protest successful and what can you do to avoid stalling your acquisition due to a protest? With the number of protests increasing, this session gives attendees clear guidance on practices to avoid that will lead to protest.
ACTIVITY: Small groups will discuss protest issues related to specific examples. Wednesday, July 26 An Overview of GSA’s e-Tools – eOffer/eMod, SIP, TDR Sales Reporting G15 · Leveraging Advancing Technology · Room 306 · Basic Maureen Jamieson, Executive Director of Consulting, Centre Law and Consulting
Julia Coon, Consultant, Centre Law and Consulting This session will show participants how to submit a GSA offer, modifications and other electronic forms such as the CSP-1 and Small Business Subcontracting Plan in eOffer/eMod. Walk through the SIP program and step-by-step instructions for the import/upload process for both products and services. Discussion will focus on GSA’s new Transactional Data Reporting (TDR)/FAS Sales Reporting and the anticipated Formatted Product Tool (FPT). The post Centre Staff Speaking at NCMA World Congress appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Staff Leading Breakout Sessions at 2017 NCMA World Congress

This July, several of the Centre staff were chosen from a competitive field to lead multiple breakout sessions at the 2017 World Congress in Chicago, IL. World Congress is the National Contract Management Association’s largest education event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals. Individuals from government, industry, and commercial business come together for networking and training for all career levels. From pressing legal matters to the latest in GSA Schedule updates, come learn the information you’ll need to stay up-to-date in the federal contracting industry. Make sure these three breakout sessions are added to your “must-see” events on your conference schedule: MONDAY, JULY 24 (11:15am – 12:30pm)
Corporate Ethics: Lead from the Top or Pay Through the Nose
David Warner, Partner
This session will review recent enforcement actions—including whistleblower, qui tam, and debarment processes— with respect to federal contractors. Hear about the current state of the law concerning “hidden” ethical traps for import/export, ITAR/EAR, and TAA, in addition to the more common traps of the False Claims Act and Foreign Corrupt Practices. Corporate ethics are expected to remain a significant concern for contractors even under the new administration. Leave with guidance to understand the current legal landscape and to identify and mitigate such risk. TUESDAY, JULY 25 (11:15am – 12:30pm)
Protests Happen, so Now What?
Barbara S. Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner
James Phillips Jr, PMP, CFCM, Fellow, Acquisition Consultant
When the word protest is used often, both buyer and seller bristle. This presenter speculates on the thinking that the government buyer goes through that ultimately results in a decision that is sustained. Hear key decision points of actual sustained protests. TUESDAY, JULY 25 (4:00pm – 5:15pm)
Lessons Gleaned from Successful Protests at GAO
Barbara S. Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner
What makes a protest successful and what can you do to avoid stalling your acquisition due to a protest? With the number of protests increasing, this session gives attendees clear guidance on practices to avoid that will lead to protest. WEDNESDAY, JULY 26 (9:45am – 11:00am)
SIP vs FPT, TDR/FAS Sales Reporting vs 72A, eOffer/eMod
Maureen Jamieson, Executive Director of Consulting
Julia Coon, Consultant
eOffer/eMod is GSA’s online tool to submit GSA offers and modifications that is only accessible to authorized negotiators with digital certificates. This session will show participants how to submit a GSA offer and modifications and other electronic forms. Hear about the SIP program and step-by-step instructions for the import/upload process for both products and services. Discussion will focus on GSA’s new TDR/FAS Sales Reporting and Formatted Product Tool.
 

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Centre Law & Consulting Successfully Sustains Bid Protest for Phoenix Air

Centre Law & Consulting (Centre), a leading provider of legal services for federal contractors, has successfully worked on behalf of its client – Phoenix Air – to win a favorable outcome in their bid protest against the Department of the Interior on a recent Request for Proposal (RFP). At issue was the fact that the Department of the Interior allowed one contractor to be credited for meeting the proposal’s criteria even though it submitted information on one plane while recommending to use another in a $25 million U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command contract for electronic warfare aircraft services. Phoenix Air, the incumbent contractor, received a lower rating than the higher-priced awardee. As a result, Phoenix Air argued that the Department of the Interior misevaluated the submitted proposals by applying unstated evaluation criteria, unreasonably failed to hold discussions, and made an unreasonable source selection decision. After reviewing the protest, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the evaluation of proposals was indeed unreasonable and inconsistent with the terms of the RFP. They sustained the protest in favor of Phoenix Air. Given the decision, the Department of the Interior must now reevaluate proposals consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria. The agency can amend the solicitation to advise offerors of the agency’s intended evaluation approach, but if it does, it will need to provide offerors with an opportunity to submit revised proposals before it conducts another review and makes a new decision. “We are very pleased with the outcome of GAO’s decision in our client’s bid protest. It’s gratifying to know that Phoenix Air will have an opportunity to be more fairly evaluated under the set proposal standards and recompete for the work it has already has a history of doing with the Department of the Interior,” said Barbara Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner of Centre. The post Centre Law & Consulting Successfully Sustains Bid Protest for Phoenix Air appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

 

Centre Law & Consulting Featured Tonight on NewsChannel 8

Tune in tonight, Wednesday April 19, at 8:00pm and 11:00pm to the Government Matters show on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington DC area to see a segment featuring Centre Law & Consulting. Wayne Simpson, Consultant with Centre, appears on the show for an interview about the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to reduce the administrative burdens on SDVOSBs and VOSBs. Government Matters is the only television newscast focused on the business of government. Host Francis Rose recaps the top federal headlines and conducts thought-provoking interviews on tech, security, defense, workforce, and industry issues. Since its launch in August of 2013, Government Matters has hosted some of the top minds in the federal community, including guests from the White House, Congress, Fortune 500 companies, journalism, and the non-profit sector.
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Centre Law & Consulting Awarded NRC Contract for Employee Training

Centre Law & Consulting (Centre), a leading provider of training and acquisition services for government agencies, is pleased to announce the award of a contract with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for NRC Acquisition Workforce Training. Under the contract, Centre will develop and deliver a structured training program which standardizes the education, training, and experience requirements for NRC acquisition professionals, while improving workforce competencies and performance. The instruction provided will include all levels of COR and acquisition courses related to FAC-C & FAC-COR certifications. Courses will be conducted at the NRC’s Professional Development Center and virtually across the United States. The contract covers a base period of one year with two option years. “It is an honor to be selected by the NRC as their new training provider, and we are excited to provide our expertise in developing integrated learning solutions for acquisition and procurement personnel,” said Barbara Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner of Centre. “We look forward to delivering innovative curriculum and content that will strengthen the NRC workforce to align with the NRC’s performance goals.” Jeffrey Keen, Director of Federal Contracts and Training at Centre Law & Consulting, will serve as Program Manager. He will be the primary point of contact with the NRC and with Hemsley Fraser, a subcontractor that will assist Centre with extensive course customization. “Our training team is committed to helping the NRC improve the operational knowledge of its staff and we are dedicated to ensuring they receive the best possible support for their training initiatives. We look forward to customizing an education program that will elevate the performance of their employees,” Keen said. Centre has a long history of working with a variety of government agencies, but this contract marks the first time it will partner with the NRC. Centre was selected based on its experience in creating custom courseware, for its history of providing DAU-approved courses, and for its day-to-day experience in advising government personnel on acquisition and procurement matters. The post Centre Law & Consulting Awarded NRC Contract for Employee Training appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting Awarded CSOSA Contract for Employee Training

Centre Law & Consulting (Centre), a leading provider of acquisition services and training for both government agencies and federal contractors, is pleased to announce the award of a contract with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). Under the contract, Centre will develop and deliver an Executive Contracting Officer’s (COR) Training Program for a base period of one year with two one-year option periods. The training program will focus on increasing the knowledge of CSOSA’s acquisition and non-acquisition personnel in the areas of contract administration, planning, and management for procuring services and supplies in support of the CSOSA mission. “Centre is excited to have been to be selected by CSOSA to be their training provider, and it’s a testament to our long history of providing high quality acquisition and procurement education. We look forward to providing our expertise to CSOSA and to helping them achieve their goals,” said Barbara Kinosky, Esq., Managing Partner of Centre. “Our unique background in procurement law and regulations and focus on customization will ensure that CSOSA receives the greatest possible support for its COR training program.” Centre has a long history of working with a variety of government agencies, but this contract marks the first time it will partner with CSOSA. Centre was selected based on its experience in creating custom courseware that is tailored to an agency’s specific needs and for its day-to-day experience in advising acquisition professionals on compliance and implementation. The post Centre Law & Consulting Awarded CSOSA Contract for Employee Training appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Barbara Kinosky to Present at Tower Club Lunch and Learn Event

If you are in the Northern Virginia area, grab some lunch with Centre’s Managing Partner, Barbara Kinosky, on May 23 at the Tower Club in Tysons, VA. Barbara will be the featured speaker presenting on “Hot Topics for Federal Contractors: A Look at What’s In and What’s Out in 2017” at the Tower Club’s Lunch and Learn series. Attendees will get up to date on all the latest hot topics in the federal contracting industry. What will a Trump presidency continue to look like? Will there be more emphasis on defense spending? How will federal regulations be impacted? Executive orders, compliance, audits – what’s in, what’s out? Come learn about all this and more! What:   Hot Topics for Federal Contractors: A Look at What’s In and What’s Out in 2017
Date:    May 23, 2017
Time:    12:30pm – 1:30pm
Where: Tower Club in Tysons, VA Find out more and register via the Calendar page on the Tower Club’s website.   The post Barbara Kinosky to Present at Tower Club Lunch and Learn Event appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Barbara Kinosky to Be Featured Speaker at Section 809 Panel

Mark your calendars to join Barbara Kinosky at the upcoming Section 809 Panel meeting on April 27 at 11:30am where she will be an invited featured speaker. Section 809 Panel stakeholder meetings provide a forum for external experts in the defense acquisition community to provide input to representatives of the panel for consideration in the panel’s work. The Section 809 Panel is looking at reforming and streamlining acquisition regulations with a view toward improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the defense acquisition process and maintaining a defense technology advantage. The panel is charged with making recommendations for the amendment or repeal of such regulations that the panel considers necessary, as a result of such review, to: Establish and administer appropriate buyer and seller relationships in the procurement system Improve the functioning of the acquisition system Ensure the continuing financial and ethical integrity of defense procurement programs Protect the best interests of the Department of Defense Eliminate any regulations that are unnecessary for the purposes described All Section 809 Panel meetings are open to the general public and details are posted to the panel’s website.
 

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Barbara Kinosky Speaker at the 21st Annual Government Contracting Update

Mrs. Kinosky has been invited to speak during the “Enterprise Risk Management Session – Managing Fraud Risk through ERM and current trends with GSA Price Reductions” on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 11:10am in Tysons Corner, VA. About Barbara Kinosky Barbara Kinosky is the Managing Partner of Centre Law and Consulting and has over twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting. Barbara is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012 and 2015. Prior to establishing Centre, Barbara was the head of a government contracts practice group at a major law firm. She started Centre is 2002 to provide integrated legal, GSA consulting and training services. About the 21st Annual Government Contracting Update “Doing business with the US Government is extremely challenging. This event has provided an annual update for the Government Contracting industry for the past 20 years. This year, we will be presenting the update utilizing different formats including panels and breakout sessions with DHG industry leaders, attorneys, and industry representatives who face and address contracting issues and challenges on a daily basis.” The post Barbara Kinosky Speaker at the 21st Annual Government Contracting Update appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Barbara Kinosky Quoted in Bloomberg BNA Article on Proposed FAR Rule

Reproduced with permission from Federal Contracts Report, 105 FCR (Dec. 6, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com Talk More, Fret Less, Proposed Rule Urges Feds, Contractors Federal acquisition officials are encouraging increased communication between industry and government, in the hope of ensuring a more efficient process for both parties. An updated regulation would make it clear that it’s in the government’s best interests to talk to industry during all phases of the purchasing process, according to a proposed Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) rule published Nov. 29 in the Federal Register. It bolsters the notion, detailed in procurement policy memos issued in 2011 and 2012, that acquisition officials need to fret less about possible negative ramifications of talking to industry, and instead open lines of communication. Some government contracts attorneys say they approve of the renewed emphasis. “For a long time, there has been a fear of communication between agencies and contractors, but that needs to continue to change,” Jeff Chiow, a shareholder with the law firm Rogers Joseph O’Donnell PC in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA. “I think it’s absolutely appropriate.” ‘Must Not Hesitate.’
The proposed rule would mandate that the FAR adopt a section of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which made it clear that agency acquisition personnel are “permitted and encouraged to engage in responsible and constructive exchanges with industry, so long as those exchanges are consistent with existing law and regulation and do not promote an unfair competitive advantage to particular firms.” The proposed language to the FAR takes this one step further, specifically suggesting that government officials “must not hesitate” to communicate with industry as early as possible in the acquisition cycle to help determine what exactly is available in the commercial marketplace. The rule also would add language to the FAR ensuring that agencies maximize their use of commercial products and services in meeting their requirements. The key is that agencies should be broadcasting their plans to all competitors, and then have “frank conversations about what’s needed” with them to help determine if their proposals might be tweaked to fit the government’s needs. “The emphasis should be at the beginning of the process, but communication should be ongoing,” he said. Not all government contracts attorneys agree on the impact of the proposed rule. Some say it wouldn’t do anything to stop the process from tilting toward larger contractors. “In my opinion, the proposed rule does not materially change the current government and industry procurement cycle interaction or lack thereof,” Barbara Kinosky, managing partner of Centre Law & Consulting, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mailed statement. “The large companies and those with savvy sales people will always be on the front end of procurements. They did not get to be large businesses by finding out about procurements on eBuy for the first time.” The rule won’t change a government culture that, as it pertains to smaller procurements, “believes in low price and minimum engagement with contractors,” Kinosky said. Common Misconceptions.
The proposed FAR rule was spurred by a pair of detailed procurement policy memos titled “Myth-Busting” and “Myth-Busting 2” that discussed “misconceptions” about communication between industry and government during the acquisition process. The first of the memos, issued Feb. 2, 2011, and authored by Dan Gordon, then the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, addressed what he said were 10 common misconceptions, including ungrounded fears that contractor-government communications are often the source of bid protests, and that because contractors are akin to registered lobbyists, conversations with them should be avoided to reduce disclosure burdens. “While agencies do not have the resources and are not required to meet with every vendor at every step of the acquisition process, information gathered from industry sources plays an invaluable role in the acquisition process,” Gordon wrote. “For this reason, agencies must develop practices that will ensure early, frequent, and constructive communication during key phases of the process.”
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