Jump to content
The Wifcon Forums and Blogs

Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
    141
  • comments
    4
  • views
    4,799

Entries in this blog

Centre Law & Consulting

In its September 18, 2017 decision, the GAO sustained McCann-Erickson USA, Inc.’s (“McCann”) protest challenging the Army’s preliminary elimination of McCann’s proposal for advertising services on an acquisition valued up to $4 billion.  After receiving numerous proposals the Army performed a “compliance review” aimed at thinning the number of proposals before applying the evaluation criteria detailed in the requests for proposals. McCann’s proposal was eliminated for alleged failures in following the proposal preparation instructions.

The GAO agreed McCann’s proposal did not comply with the exact format requested in the solicitation, but stated such problems were not sufficient, on their own, to exclude a proposal before taking a more substantive look at the proposal’s contents. This decision is supported by the fact that the solicitation gave no warning the Army would be taking such a harsh pass/fail look at compliance with proposal preparation instructions.

It certainly did not help that at least some of the alleged deficiencies of the proposal were found, by the GAO, to really be mistakes by the Army. The GAO walks through such examples including, the Army’s inability to search for McCann’s certifications in the system for award management database, despite being provided the correct name and code. The GAO also found the Army’s refusal to evaluate McCann’s price proposal submission because it was in PDF format rather than the requested Excel format was unreasonable. While previous GAO decisions have supporting an Agency’s harsh response to such unfollowed format requests, here the Army did not put forth any reason why submission in PDF format, rather than Excel, poised any problems.

This decision is not quite landmark, but does give push back to the government’s seemingly increasing use of “pre-evaluation…evaluations” in the face of an overwhelming number of proposals.

About the Author:

Tyler Freiberger Headshot | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA 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 GAO Sustains Protest on Four Billion Dollar Solicitation Evaluation appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

In its September 18, 2017 decision, the GAO sustained a protest over a task order awarded to a contractor whom only had one of the two required services listed on their General Services Administration (“GSA”) Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”).

The United States Navy attempted to acquire 120-250 hotel rooms for civil service mariners in the Norfolk, Virginia area. The Agency invited vendors to submit offers through the GSA’s e-buy system, with instructions to only submit services on a current GSA Schedule contract. Unfortunately for the awardee, the request for quotation (“RFQ”) also required shuttles from the hotels to the work sites.

While the decision takes pains to describe in detail the intricacies of GSA Schedules, the result is simple. The original awardee simply did not have transportation services included as “additional services” as required. The RFQ listed two separate tasks orders, one of which was transportation by shuttle. Despite the awardee’s ability to provide these services, the RFQ clearly emphasized the award would be made exclusively through the GSA thereby excluding companies without all required services listed on the Schedule.

About the Author:

Tyler Freiberger Headshot | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA 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 GSA Federal Supply Schedule Description Too Limited For Contractor to Receive Award appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

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:

  1. 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.
  2. GSA contractors must accept the Governmentwide purchase card for orders under the micro-purchase threshold ($3,500).
  3. The 0.75% Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) is already included in the price of items on GSA Advantage!.
  4. An advantage for sellers under Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) orders is that the Government has no audit rights.
  5. Participating Dealers on a Schedule contract may bill the government directly on behalf of the Schedule holder.
  6. 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.
  7. GSA/VA Schedule Price Lists submitted via the Schedules Input Program (SIP) are automatically posted to GSA Advantage.
  8. Multiple modification actions such as economic price adjustments and deletion mods can be combined in one modification and submitted via the eMod system.
  9. Only authorized negotiators with signature authority and digital certificates are permitted to submit certain modifications and sign modifications in the eMod system.
  10. 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.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

By Tyler Freiberger 

Untimeliness is one of the most common reasons protests of government solicitations and awards before the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) and The Court of Federal Claims are dismissed. The accompanying chart describes the somewhat harsh and complex rules required for filing before each body. For protests on how a solicitation is written, a contractor must protest simply before the bids are made. But other protests have strict timing demands measured from when the basis for the protest “is known or should have been known.” 4 C.F.R. 21.2. The definition of this phrase has been stretched repeatedly to include situations that would likely surprise unwary contractors.

Last year, the GAO decided VMD Systems. The merits of the protest are not particularly interesting, but the decision does illustrate how liberally the GAO is willing to interpret “should have known.”  In VMD Systems, the contractor was excluded from the competitive range of a NASA contract. Hoping to learn as much as possible for why the award would go to another, the contractor elected to receive a debriefing from the government agency after the award was made, rather than a debriefing only on why it was excluded. After the debriefing, VMD protested its exclusion from the process claiming it was held at a higher standard than others. No dice. The GAO ruled that because VMD could have learned the basis of their protest by electing to take the earlier debriefing option, waiting until after VMD actually knew of the basis was untimely, and therefore the protest was dismissed.

More recently, the Court of Federal Claims used similar logic to that applied by the GAO in VMD Systems. In Sonoran Technology, the Court of Federal Claims considered an odd set of events where one contractor, Sonoran, won the award, faced two different protests, lost the protest and then ultimately the award to a competitor.  As the original awardee, Sonoran had the right to intervene in the original protests but chose not to. When the award was eventually given to the competitor, Sonoran filed a protest of its own through a complaint to the Court of Federal Claims.  The court dismissed the complaint as untimely under the same reasoning used in VMD Systems; had Sonoran exercised the right to intervene in the original protests, it would have learned the basis for the complaint to the Court of Federal Claims much earlier therefore that is the date where the timeliness clock starts.

So, what can a contractor do to protect his or her rights? The accompanying chart provides a summary of important rules and procedures required to protest before the GAO and the Court of Federal Claims. But as shown here, the deciding bodies often interpret the rules to require contractors to aggressively seek out any information that could support a protest and act immediately.

 

 

 

Forum

 

 

Timeliness

 

 

Performance Stay

 

 

Task Order/IDIQ

 

 

Filing Fees

 

 

Time Frame for Decision

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Protest based upon improprieties in a solicitation: Must be filed prior to the time set for submission of initial proposals.

 

All other protests: Must be filed not later than ten days after the basis of the protest is known or should have been known.

 

Debriefing exception: protests challenging a procurement conducted on the basis of competitive proposals under which a debriefing is requested and, when requested, is required. In such cases, the initial protest shall not be filed before the debriefing date offered to the protester, but shall be filed not later than ten days after the date on which the debriefing is held.

 

 

Pre-award protest: When the agency has received notice from the GAO of a protest, the Agency must delay the award.

 

Post-award protest: An automatic stay applies if the protest is filed within five days of a requested and required debriefing, or, if no debriefing was requested and required, within ten days of contract award provided that the GAO notifies the agency within that time frame.

The GAO only has jurisdiction over civilian agency task order awards valued over $10 million.

 

The GAO’s jurisdictional threshold for military agency task order protests is $25 million.

 

Department of Defense task orders issued under civilian agency Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) are subject to the $10 million threshold applicable to civilian task order awards.

 

There is no minimum value dollar threshold for Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts.

Currently none. GAO will be implementing a $350 filing fee in the future. GAO shall issue a decision on a protest within 100 days after it is filed.
Forum Timeliness Performance Stay Task Order/IDIQ Filing Fees Time Frame for Decision
Court of Federal Claims (COFC) Pre-award protest: No specific time limits but errors apparent on the face of the solicitation must be protested prior to the time set for submission of initial proposals.

 

Post-award protest: No specific time limits but serious delay may impact the decision.

No automatic stay applies at the COFC. Instead, the protester must seek a preliminary injunction. The COFC has jurisdiction over task order protests only where the protester alleges an increase in scope, period, or maximum value of the contract under which the order is issued or where a protest of an order valued in excess of $10 million (civilian task orders)/$25 million (military task orders). $350. No set time frame for decision but the court’s practice is to expedite protest cases to the extent practicable and to conduct hearings on motions for preliminary injunctions at the earliest practicable time.

 

About the Author:

Tyler Freiberger Headshot | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA 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 Timeliness of Bid Protests appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

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.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Currently, the U.S. Government is revising the U.S. export control and enforcement framework.  The new system is designed to facilitate efficiencies and coordination within the U.S. Government, protect national security and critical technologies, and cut costs to U.S. exporters.  However, compliance will remain paramount because the U.S. Government is also consolidating its enforcement mechanisms.

Background:

In August 2009, President Obama directed a broad-based inter-agency review of the U.S. export control framework.  There has not been much change to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) since the end of the Cold War.  The export control reform will facilitate secure and transparent trade for all U.S. exporters around the world.  According to the U.S. Government, 98 % of all identified exporters are businesses that have fewer than 20 employees.  Yet, on average they spend 36 % more per employee on compliance.  The new system seeks to change this.

Generally, the ITAR control the manufacture and export of defense articles, defense services, and defense technology.  The EAR control the export of dual-use goods, software and technology.  In addition, U.S. exporters should also be concerned with the Office of Foreign Asset Control Regulations (OFAC).  The OFAC administer and enforce U.S. trade sanctions.

Current Export Control Regime Challenges:

Multiple agencies have overlapping jurisdictions, disharmonized enforcement tools, and numerous control lists which have posed many challenges to small businesses and U.S. exporters.

Overlapping Enforcement:  There are seven primary departments involved in export controls: Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and the Treasury.  The U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, and the Treasury are primarily responsible for export licensing.  The U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Commerce are responsible for criminal enforcement investigations.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigations are also involved in various aspects of export controls.  This results in overlapping enforcement actions, multiple investigations based on the same violation, and fundamentally confuses U.S. exporters.  It also creates numerous compliance risks because it potentially exposes the same U.S. exporter to multiple agencies based on a single incident.

Disharmonized Enforcement Tools: Before the export control review started, different laws had inconsistent penalties for similar violations which offered unpredictable results for the U.S. Government.  For example, in some cases, the maximum penalty for criminal violations of the U.S. Munitions List controls was only ½ of the comparable sentence for violations of the Commerce Control List.

Multiple Export Lists: U.S. exporters were required to spend a lot of time and resources reviewing various screening lists maintained by the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, and the Treasury before they could make an export.  This made it difficult for them to ensure compliance.  They had to review the U.S. Munitions List, the Commerce Control List, embargo lists, excluded parties list and entities, and others.

The New and Improved Export Controls Regime

The revisions of the export control and enforcement regime are far from over, but this is what the U.S. Government has accomplished thus far:

Consolidated Screening List:  The U.S. Government made substantial improvements to consolidate all the screening lists.  In 2015, the U.S. Government introduced a new feature which helps to conduct searches without knowing the exact spelling of different entities listed.  This will help U.S. exporters to conduct due diligence but may also require them to review their current compliance policies.

Export Coordination Enforcement Center: Pursuant to the Executive Order 13558, Export Coordination Enforcement Center, the U.S. Government has set up the mandatory de-confliction and coordination of government-wide export enforcement activities.  This is designed to address the jurisdictional and enforcement overlap that currently exists between different U.S. departments involved in export controls and enforcement.  The new center also allows the U.S. Government to better coordinate its enforcement actions.

According to the 2015 Government Accountability Report CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES Agency Initiatives Address Some Weaknesses, but Additional Interagency Collaboration Is Needed, multiple agencies have responsibility for export controls and for protecting U.S. critical technologies.  The export coordination enforcement center is designed to consolidate enforcement, investigations, and public outreach activities related to enforcement of U.S. export controls in one place.  The chart below lists various programs involving export controls and critical technologies and each agency involvement.

Program Lead Agencies and Stakeholder Agencies
International Traffic in Arms Regulations export controls State (lead), Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice
Export Administration Regulations export controls Commerce (lead), State, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Justice
Anti-Tamper Policy Defense
Foreign Military Sales Program State (lead), Defense, and Homeland Security
National Disclosure Policy Committee Defense (lead), State, and intelligence community
Militarily Critical Technologies Program Defense
Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States Treasury (lead), Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and others

 

Harmonization of Criminal Penalties for Illegal Exports:  The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act has harmonized the various statutory criminal penalties for export control violations.  According to the U.S. Government, criminal convictions are now all standardized to up to $1 million and or 20 years in prison or both.  Some of the recent enforcement actions include an attempted illegal export of up to five tons of carbon fiber to China.  The individual was sentenced to 46 months in prison and lost export privileges for 10 years.  In another example, a California based company illegally exported pressure transducers to Israel, Malaysia, China and Singapore.  The company was fined $850,000 or which $600,000 was suspended.

Key Takeaways:

The new export control reforms will benefit U.S. exporters and small businesses because they consolidate the regulatory oversight and reduce compliance costs.  At the same time, the U.S. Government is enhancing its enforcement tools to better address violations and coordinate its control efforts.  In order to benefit from the new reforms, and avoid the penalties, it is important to revise compliance policies.

Webinar:

If you would like to learn more about the U.S. Export Control Reforms, please consider attending the “New Opportunities for Small Businesses and U.S. Exporters” webinar on June 23, 2016 between 12 and 1 PM EST.  This webinar will address the ITAR, EAR, and OFAC, major export control reforms and opportunities, new enforcement mechanisms, and cost-effective export compliance practices for small businesses.
 
Register Now

Join the LinkedIn Group:

Centre has also recently created a Trade Agreements Act Forum on LinkedIn to provide a world-wide forum to discuss best practices for Trade Agreement Act (TAA) and Buy American Act (BAA) compliance issues and new developments.

The post The Overhaul of the U.S. Export Controls Will Benefit Small Businesses appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

By Barbara Kinosky

My Driveway

I wake up to yet another day of rain in the Washington D.C. metro area.  It wouldn’t be so bad if my driveway was not a mud pit.  Years ago a crafty driveway company talked us into a pebble driveway which looked like it was in Architectural Digest – for all of a couple of years.  Rocks eventually roll downhill and my driveway has a definite slope to it.  I also have discovered that it is cheaper to put down gravel than it is to remove it and that crews don’t like working in the rain.  And I don’t like slogging through the driveway mud to my car, which is parked on the street in what I think is another zip code.

Budgets

Which brings me to why federal budgets are flat. Since my last blog I have attended and spoken at numerous conferences.  Some prognosticators say professional services will pick up and others say that is a downward slope like my driveway.  What I think we all agree on is that there will be no budget until next year.  The government will soldier on with continuing resolutions until another administration takes office.  I am separating from the pack though and predicting that temporary staffing services will pick up even in a flat budget year.  Someone has to do the work.

DHS  

Which leads me to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which is flying the “Incumbent Bridge Contract Flag”. This is because of their own acquisition directive MD 102 (“mad dog” 102). That directive mandates an acquisition lifecycle framework (ALF) which sounds good in the land of good intentions.  However, ALF is a dog and a not a friendly one.  The ALF is a cumbersome four-phase process that anyone in DHS wanting to buy anything (with the exception of the IG) must go through prior to proceeding with an acquisition.  Most of the DHS acquisition pros have thrown up their hands (and maybe their lunches) over this onerous process.  It is far easier to extend incumbent contracts than to proceed under ALF.

Recent Bid Protests  

Protests are trending up 3% over the previous year.  Sustain rates are around 12 to 14% on average.  In CACI Enterprise Solutions, Inc., B-412648, Apr 25, 2016, the GAO upheld the award to SAIC under a NASA procurement for management of NASA’s enterprise applications. From the decision:

Protest that agency’s evaluation and selection decision failed to consider performance risk associated with staffing reductions in the awardee’s proposal is denied where the agency reasonably concluded that the awardee proposed sufficient staffing to perform the contract requirements, and the source selection authority fully considered the performance risk associated with the awardee’s staffing approach but found the risk to have been mitigated.   http://www.gao.gov/products/B-412648,B-412648.2#mt=e-report

It’s interesting to note that SAIC was the incumbent and trimmed its own staff down for the new win.

Labor   

The White House has proposed new regulations that will prohibit federal agencies from asking a job applicant about their criminal history until after a conditional job offer has been made.  Hiring managers will have to eliminate questions about criminal records until later in the hiring process.  This, I am confident, will eventually flow down to federal contractors.  File your comments before July 1. I can’t resist posting a link to my Linked In post last week about the VA retaining an employee convicted of armed robbery because the armed robbery was committed on her own time and not on VA time.

GSA and VA Schedules

I’ll be posting a white paper on our website next week on the latest news in GSA and VA contracting covering the latest on category management and the new SAC at the VA.

Until next time,

Barbara

The post The Earth is Flat but Not My Driveway appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Alleluia! Inconsistence SCA implementation from GSA be gone!

GSA has finally issued guidance on the implementation of the Service Contract Labor Standards (formerly called the Service Contract Act). It seems like dog years ago and certainly several changes of leadership at GSA when I first met with them about issuing uniform SCLS guidance.

How Do We Know This?

GSA published a draft refresh of Schedule 23V (firetrucks, auto, and auto parts and accessories) which contains the draft guidance along with some SCA/SCLS questions and answers. However, GSA tells us that this (draft) guidance will be finalized pronto and implemented across the board on all schedules. The grand Wizard of Oz will finally speak to all in Munchkin Land.

What You Need to Know Now:

  1. We finally have some (forthcoming) guidance from DOL and GSA. In summary, current Wage Determinations (WDs) will be deleted from all existing schedule contracts.
  2. GSA policies and procedures will be updated to direct ordering activity contracting officers to incorporate the appropriate Wage Determinations at the task order level.
  3. I have always said the FAR directs the contracting officers to make this determination and not the contractor. This is consistent with the FAR.
  4. A GSA Mass Mod will be issued in approximately 10 days across all Schedules incorporating these changes.
  5. Although the revised Schedule 23V Refresh is a DRAFT summary of what is to come, it highlights the significant changes. There are FAQs that provide a good summary specific to SCA.

 
Centre’s Concerns:

  1. You can’t bid higher than your Schedule rates.
  2. If you are bidding on a task order proposal that incorporates a WD for an area that is higher priced than your schedule rates, you may have to modify your GSA Schedule. We don’t know if GSA will process modifications to support bidding and not billed rates but GSA, this can be an issue. I predict mass confusion here, just like when the Wicked Witch of the West flies over Oz.
  3. All GSA Catalogs will need to be revised to remove the SCA matrix. There will be less work at the Schedule level now on SCA/SCLS.

 
Need More Information?

Email me at bkinosky@centrelawgroup.com if you want the GSA FAQs and Schedule 23V with the pertinent sections. I will also be posting more details on our SCA LinkedIn Forum. For even more help, consider reaching out to us if you need legal or GSA consulting services. We are all about the SCLS/SCA compliance.

Want Training?

We offer a variety of educational courses throughout the year on these and many other topics. See what’s coming up on our Course Calendar or browse our complete Course Catalog.

About the Author:

Barbara Kinosky Barbara Kinosky
Managing Parnter

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 GSA Schedule Update: Breaking News on Service Contract Act (SCLS) – What To Do Now appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Earlier this week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a publication related to the rights of individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when requesting leave from work as a reasonable accommodation. While the ADA clearly requires employers provide qualified disabled individuals with a “reasonable accommodation” to permit the individual to perform the essential functions of the job, the entitlement to leave as such an accommodation has been a focus of the EEOC and litigation in recent years. The EEOC noted in its press release, that “[d]isability charges filed with the EEOC reached a new high in fiscal year 2015, increasing over 6 percent from the previous year” and that the EEOC has identified a “prevalence of employer policies that deny or unlawfully restrict the use of leave as a reasonable accommodation.” Thus, the publication seeks to provide general information related to assessing requests for leave under the ADA and also provides examples of leave requests and the EEOC’s determination of appropriate action.

Employee requests for leave linked to medical conditions (e.g., stress, depression, etc.) have been on the rise including, for example, requests for telework, breaks, reduced schedules, and extended time off. Given the ADA’s now more expansive definition of disability, these requests must be assessed by employers for compliance with ADA in addition to other various state or federal laws prior to making a determination. Being informed about the ADA requirements is essential in ensuring these requests are handled in an appropriate manor. The required “interactive process” is not a one-size fits all approach and specifically contemplates a review of whether alternative forms of reasonable accommodations may be effective in meeting the employee’s needs. Thus, while an employee may seek leave as an accommodation, the employer may propose other accommodations that may permit the employee to return to work sooner or be more productive while at work.

In addition, while the EEOC still has not provided a bright-line on what length or frequency of leave may become an undue burden, it is worth repeating that when an employee requests “indefinite leave” (i.e., leave without any indication as to when or whether the employee will return) the EEOC has determined that such leave would be an undue burden and, thus, not required to be provided by the ADA.

This publication supplements other available resources available from the EEOC and should be consulted by those responsible for reviewing reasonable accommodation requests and company leave policies. The publication also covers modifications to existing leave policies, maximum leave policies, communication with employees on leave (including when returning to work from leaves covered by FMLA), the “interactive process” in assessing reasonable accommodation requests, and undue hardship considerations.

About the Author:

Marina Blickley | Centre Law Group Marina Blickley
Associate Attorney

Marina Blickley focuses on the Government Contracting and Non-Profit industries. She regularly assists clients in all aspects of employment and labor law including employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation/whistleblower, compensation practices, and wage and hour violations. Marina also represents companies in commercial litigation matters concerning contract disputes, restrictive covenants/non-competes, business conspiracy, misappropriation of trade secrets, and computer fraud and theft.

 

The post EEOC Issues New Publication on Employer-Provided Leave Under ADA appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

The GSA FAS Office of Acquisition Management is planning to refresh all Multiple Award Schedules to incorporate provision and clause updates. For Schedules that offer services, both professional and nonprofessional, the solicitation refresh and corresponding mass modification will also update the application of the Service Contract Labor Standards (SCLS) to align with the U.S. Department of Labor’s SCLS compliance procedures.

They recently issued a presentation that outlines the planned changes and updates in the modification. GSA Overview of Planned MAS Changes, courtesy of the GSA to learn more.
 

The post GSA Issues Presentation on Changes to Multiple Award Schedules appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Reproduced with permission from Federal Contracts Report, 105 FCR (May 11, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com

GSA Sends Warning Letters to Contractors Over Origins of Products

The General Services Administration (GSA) is clamping down on thousands of federal contractors to ensure that products sold to government agencies are made in the U.S. or are otherwise in compliance with the Trade Agreement Act (TAA), Bloombery BNA has learned.

Regional GSA offices in Fort Worth, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, emailed letters dated May 5 to more than 2,800 schedule contract holders that directed vendors to “review their total offering of product” by submitting a spreadsheet that verified the countries of origin of each schedule contract product, as well as copies of a Certificate of Origin or other certification from the manufacturer on its letterhead for products made in the U.S. or in a TAA-designated country.

“The continued reoccurrence of non-compliant product threatens the integrity of the [Multiple Aware Schedule] contracts and GSA Advantage! website which federal customers rely on to make daily purchases that are compliant with the Federal Acquisition Regular (FAR),” the GSA letter said. “This threat cannot be tolerated for the good for the federal procurement community, MAS business line, and continued success of a primary system you rely on to serve federal customers.”

The letter provided to Bloomberg BNA was unsigned but included the name of a Fort Worth-based GSA contracting officer at the bottom.

The letter, addressed to “Dear GSA Partner,” noted that over the past year, the Multiple Award Schedule program had responded to “numerous” congressional inquiries and Freedom of Information Act requests regarding allegations of failed compliance with the TAA and the Buy American Act.

Made In America

In January, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the GSA Advantage! website had listed products that were described as “made in America” but in fact were produced overseas. He said the GSA should review its website labels and excise products that are falsely listed.

The Buy American Act, in place since 1933, and the regulation that stems from it significantly restricts the federal government from purchasing non-American-made products. The TAA stretches the law by allowing the purchase of end products from the U.S. or designated countries, which, according to GSA’s website, includes World Trade Organization government procurement agreement countries; free-trade agreement countries; least-developed countries; and Caribbean Basin countries. The designated country list, which includes 124 nations, excludes prominent U.S. trading partners China and India.

The letter from the Great Southwest Region in Fort Worth ordered companies that have found products manufactured in non-TAA designated countries to remove all such products from their TAA contract; upload a new and revised catalog to GSA’s Schedule Input Program; and send an updated price list and terms and conditions to the National Schedules Information Center.

The GSA gave companies that received the letter five days, until the close of business May 10, to respond. Businesses that didn’t reply in time face severe penalties, according to the letter, including, typed in bold letters, “the removal of your entire GSAdvantage file.”

In a statement, a GSA spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA: “Once learning of products being offered on a Schedule contract that are potentially non-compliant with the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), or when the country of manufacture is otherwise misrepresented, GSA will conduct an immediate review an take swift action to ensure that vendors remove non-compliant products from Schedule contracts and GSA Advantage!.”

Unmanned Vehicles

According to the GSA spokesperson, 2,872 letters were emailed to contractors from the agency’s offices in Fort Worth and Kansas City. That included 308 emails sent to Schedule 51V Hardware Superstore contractors; 1,184 to Schedule 84 providers of security, facilities management, marine craft and emergency/disaster response-related goods; 641 to Schedule 56 makers of building materials and supplies and alternative energy solutions; 361 to Schedule 66 producers of test and measurement equipment, unmanned scientific vehicles and geographic environmental analysis equipment; and 378 emails to Schedule 7 makers of hospitality and cleaning equipment, sanitizers and toiletries.

The spokesperson confirmed the GSA was targeting those specific schedules and products because of congressional and other complaints. “Those schedules are among the first group of targeted schedules with identified risk that GSA is reviewing,” the spokesperson said.

Attorneys who represent contractors that received the emailed letter told Bloomberg BNA they are asking GSA for extensions to conduct necessary research into their product lines, and to complete all the needed paperwork.

Maureen Jamieson, executive director of contracts and consulting at Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons Corner, Va., said she has heard from several clients concerned about the letter, including some based in Fort Worth and another that was contacted by GSA’s Kansas City office. She said GSA had not yet responded to her requests for an extension.

“I’ve been hearing from clients of many years. They’re coming out of the woodwork,” Jamieson told Bloomberg BNA, adding that she was concerned about the tight turnaround time the GSA’s directive gave contractors. “If you’re going to do it right, it just requires more time, ” she said.

Day One

“It’s definitely been a scramble, I guess you could say,” Gunjan Talati, a Washington-based partner with Thompson Hine, told Bloomberg BNA.

Talati said companies have been responsible for complying with the underlying requirements – that they adhere to the rules put forth in the TAA and Buy American Act – “since Day One.” But regardless of how diligent companies have been in fully adhering to those laws in the past, he said, “I look at this as a wake-up call.”

Compliance with the TAA is often a complicated affair that can require “a detailed examination of the product’s manufacturing process,” Talati and fellow Thompson Hine Partner Lawrence Prosen wrote in a client advisory issued a day after GSA emails were sent. This includes a determination as to whether articles from one country have been “substantially transformed” into a new and different article of commerce that is distinctly different from the original item, they wrote.
 

The post Maureen Jamieson Quoted in Bloomberg BNA Article on Trade Agreements Act appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

My granddaughter recently lost a baby tooth in the ‘usual way.’ One morning, she felt the tooth begin to move the slightest bit. She wiggled it back and forth throughout the day and by dinner…Voile! Only one day later, she lost two more courtesy of her dentist to make room for the incoming ‘permanent’ ones. The Tooth Fairy kept the commitment of retrieving the lost teeth from under her pillow in a timely fashion – in this case staying up late on two consecutive nights – and rewarded her for pain and suffering with a selfie stick. (Wow, times have changed!)

This made me wonder, does the Tooth Fairy earn overtime for work performed in excess of a statutory number of ceiling hours or is that position salaried? (I’ve had a long term and continuing relationship with the Tooth Fairy, so I want to proceed carefully.) The question of overtime relates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA provides for a federal minimum wage, a standard 40-hour workweek, and pay at time-and-a-half rate for all overtime hours. The Act also includes several exemptions under which certain employees are not entitled to overtime pay. Currently to meet most exemptions, in addition to meeting a duties test, an employee must be paid on a salary basis at least $455 per week ($23,600 annually). There is a belief that payment of a salary is the only requirement to avoid overtime pay obligations. This is not correct. Also, a new regulation will more than double this minimum salary threshold later this year, but these are topics for tomorrow!

If the Tooth Fairy is not FLSA-exempt, there is a federal entitlement for a time-and-a-half rate for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours. Conversely, if the Tooth Fairy is FLSA-exempt, hours worked in excess of 40 hours weekly are considered Uncompensated Overtime (UCOT).

I’ve always had nagging concerns about UCOT – that it’s somehow a ‘bad’ thing – so I researched UCOT. The Regulation requires the solicitation provision at FAR 52.237-10 (Identification of Uncompensated Overtime) in requirements for technical or professional services which will be acquired on an hourly basis:

Uncompensated overtime means the hours worked without additional compensation in excess of an average of 40 hours per week by direct charge employees who are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Compensated personal absences such as holidays, vacations, and sick leave shall be included in the normal work week for purposes of computing uncompensated overtime hours.

FAR goes on to provide this example:

Uncompensated overtime rate is the rate that results from multiplying the hourly rate for a 40-hour work week by 40, and then dividing by the proposed hours per week. For example, 45 hours proposed on a 40-hour work week basis at $20 per hour would be converted to an uncompensated overtime rate of $17.78 per hour ($20.00 × 40 divided by 45 = $17.78)

The key to both the provision and the example might be the term ‘proposal’. If an offeror proposes UCOT, then it is part of its technical and pricing plan that should be evaluated during cost realism. What if a contractor does not propose UCOT yet incurs UCOT? Unforeseen situations requiring additional labor hours or surge efforts are not uncommon in professional service industries. In this situation, can the contractor invoice for these uncompensated hours? Invoicing – always a significant issue – becomes more important when fee is linked to achieving a level of effort. Can the contractor profit on UCOT hours?

UCOT is not illegal. How a contractor motivates its employees, both FLSA and FLSA-exempt, to satisfy employee and customer seems a matter for industry not Government. If you are pondering the loss of revenue on the part of the employee, consider that there may be other opportunities and means to compensate employees, such as additional benefits, compensatory time, or bonuses. As in so many other federal procurement matters, competition will affect retention rates of those who propose intentionally to overwork their employees. UCOT is discussed as a subtopic in Centre’s Federal Contract Basics Course.

As for the Tooth Fairy, there are an increasing number of ‘clients’ for whom Tooth Fairy must provide services. I know from experience that each ‘client’ has at least one parent and probably others (grandparents, for example!) standing by to ensure success. Tooth Fairy and I aren’t so close these days that we can discuss FLSA status, but I’d like to think with all those hours and all those satisfied ‘clients’ Tooth Fairy has earned many overtime hours as a non-exempt worker.

And Tooth Fairy, what’s a selfie stick anyhow?

About the Author:

Rich Zimmerman | Centre Law & Consulting Rich Zimmerman
Project Manager

Richard E. Zimmerman has more than 25 years of experience as a contracts professional both in Government and the private sector. His excellent background in FAR, Agency supplements, and their application over the procurement life cycle make him a critical resource for PMs, prime contractors, and subcontractors.

The post Uncompensated Overtime and the Tooth Fairy appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Give Me 5 Webinar Features Barbara Kinosky and Marina Blickley to Discuss HR Issues for Government Contractors | Centre Law & ConsultingOn May 11, Centre Law & Consulting’s attorneys Barbara Kinosky and Marina Blickley were featured guests on Give Me 5, a webinar hosted by Women in Public Policy (WIPP). The online series is designed to educate women business owners on how to apply for and secure federal procurement opportunities.

Give Me 5: Where Human Resources and Government Contracts Intersect

Webinar Summary: Federal contractors are subject to a unique set of rules, laws and regulations. Many of these laws and regulations also apply to subcontractors. This session covers the more complicated areas where HR and government contracts intersect, including:

  • OFCCP – latest news on increased HR compliance requirements
  • Executive Order actions and recent regulatory changes
  • Common challenges to complying with the Service Contract Labor Standards/Service Contract Act
  • Tips for handling whistleblower and relator complaints
  • Handling mandatory disclosures
  • Changes to implement now

 
Listen to the Podcast  |  View the Presentation

In addition, Marina also wrote a post for Women in Biz Blog discussing new regulations that came out after the webinar and are planned to go into effect on December 1, 2016.
 

The post Kinosky and Blickley Featured on Webinar Discussing HR Issues for Government Contractors appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Many “small” businesses listed in Federal Procurement Data Systems find themselves in a paradox—they’re at once too small to compete with large contractors, but also too large to benefit from small business set-asides. These growing firms have achieved what every small business owner hopes for—start small, gain market traction, and grow. But when a firm graduates from the benefits of small business set-asides, they enter the “mid-tier” — a murky limbo that can leave them vulnerable and, potentially, unable to compete.

The government should, as a matter of policy, continue to support and foster the growth of firms that enter the mid-tier. Research suggests maturing small businesses produce more jobs than established companies or startups. But today, these mid-tier firms have nowhere to “grow” in the federal marketplace. It’s a double-edged sword that’s not good for the economy or the federal agencies that rely on relationships with maturing small businesses.

Size Does Matter…

When it comes to professional services, mid-tier contractors simply cannot compete with the large contractors that dominate the space. Larger firms have several competitive advantages that make true competition between mid-tier firms and the largest firms illusory.

Multi-billion dollar companies have the resources to commit the talents of well-paid business development and marketing staffers solely to proposal development across multiple industries. This increases the competitiveness of the largest companies in the bidding process — potentially freezing out emergent smaller companies. In contrast, mid-size companies have limited bid and proposal budgets and typically do not have teams of individuals solely dedicated to business development and marketing. This lack of infrastructure at mid-size companies constrains their ability to compete successfully against larger actors.

What can a mid-size firm do? Often, they’re forced to sell. Competition is stifled when multi-billion dollar companies force these businesses into their supply chain through acquisition once these companies have become ineligible for small business awards. If not acquired, an advanced small or mid-size company may have to modify its business model to focus on subcontractor relationships with other large or small companies. Being limited to subcontractor roles impairs the mid-tier firm’s ability to gain project management experience essential for further growth.

…Especially in a Shrinking Market

Over the last decade, the competitive dynamics of the federal procurement market – and in particular the federal professional services industry – have changed drastically. The federal market continues to shrink in the short-term, along with the diversity of companies that supply government customers. Industry consolidation appears to have run its course in terms of efficiency, and now it simply means fewer choices for government managers.

Uncertain procurement strategies by government agencies — owed partially to congressional gridlock — challenge agencies and industry to see and prepare for future requirements. This uncertainty has adverse effects on competition and deprives the federal government of the opportunity to realize a return on its initial investment in emergent small businesses.

As in any market, there are winners and losers. But for today’s small contractors, winning might just be what sets them up to be losers. Finding opportunities to help mid-tier companies mature into strong businesses is essential — both for the competitiveness of the market and the ability of agencies to meet their mission with the most innovative solutions.

Advanced small firms have done what we all want to do. They began small, became seasoned, and grew. The government should as a matter of policy, support and foster such growth since previous data from Christopher Yukins and other researchers suggest that maturing small businesses produce more jobs than either very large or new companies. Presently, these advanced small firms have nowhere to “grow” in the federal marketplace. That is not good for the economy or federal agencies that have derived benefits from their relationships with growing small contractors.

Sizing Up the Competition

Increased concentration of Federal Professional Services Industry contract awards being performed by large companies stifles competition because advanced small companies simply cannot successfully compete with the largest players. Larger firms have several advantages that make competition between advanced small and the largest firms illusory. Multi-billion dollar companies leverage the talent of well-paid business development and marketing staff as well as teams of professional technical writers and graphic artists that can dedicate their efforts solely to proposal development. Additionally, large size companies can use their expertise to operate in multiple industries. This increases the relative competitiveness of the largest companies in the bidding process. In contrast, mid-size companies have limited bid and proposal budgets and typically do not have teams of individuals solely dedicated to business development and marketing. This lack of infrastructure at mid-size companies constrains their ability to compete successfully against larger actors.

Competition is stifled when multi-billion dollar companies force these businesses into their supply chain through acquisition after these companies have become ineligible for small business awards. If not acquired, an advanced small or mid-size company may have to modify its business model to focus on subcontractor relationships with other large or small companies. Being limited to subcontractor roles impairs the advanced small firm’s ability to gain project management experience essential for further growth.

The Government Market is Shrinking

The federal market continues to shrink in the short-term, along with the diversity of industry choices that supplies those customers. Industry consolidation appears to have run its course in terms of efficiency, and now simply means fewer choices for government managers. Uncertain strategies by government agencies — owed partially to congressional gridlock -challenges agencies and industry to see and prepare for future requirements. This uncertainty, however, has an adverse impact that shuts down competition and deprives the Federal Government from realizing any return on its initial investment in advanced small companies during their early growth.

While significant policy change will occur next year regardless of who takes control of various levels of government is an easy prediction to make, those working within today’s contracting community can expect to be asked to get things done faster and more effectively. Within federal contracting, all its many constituencies define success differently (whether you are a small, advanced small, mid-sized, or large business) and almost never achieving a consensus. As in all business, there are winners and losers. “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” In the worst-case scenario, an Advanced Small firm will fail.

To learn even more, plan to attend “Federal Procurement Opportunities for Small Businesses and Middle Market Contractors“, a breakfast seminar hosted in partnership with Mid-Tier Advocacy on June 23 in Tysons Corner, VA.

Register Now | Centre Law & Consulting

Mid-Tier Advocacy, Inc. (MTA) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization was established to work toward the elimination of the competitive disadvantage facing mid-tier government support service companies. A nonpartisan organization, MTA provides resources and public awareness through issue forums and structured branded events. As such, we leverage the collective voice for mid-tier firms in response to federal policies that impact their growth and sustainability. MTA hosts scheduled business events “MTA Business Focused Breakfast” in the DMV area where industry meets policy.

About the Author:

Tonya Saunders, Founder of Mid Tier Advocacy | Centre Law & Consulting Tonya M. Saunders
Founder of Mid-Tier Advocacy, Inc.

Tonya Saunders is the founder and principal for Washington Premier Consulting and Washington Premier Group. Among her accomplishments is founding and directing Mid-Tier Advocacy, a national coalition of small, emerging, and medium-sized businesses.

 

The post Too Big to Be Small, Too Small to Be Big appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Are you selling your products or services to the U.S. Government? If so, what does your compliance program look like?

There are seven different elements that you should have in place in order to be confident that your compliance program can be effective. The Buy American Statute (BAS) requires the U.S. Government to give a preference to U.S.-made goods over foreign-made goods in federal procurements. The Trade Agreements Act (TAA) prohibits the U.S. Government from buying products and services from non TAA-eligible countries such as China. The TAA is applicable to all federal supply schedules. Both acts are discussed in detail in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 25, Foreign Acquisition.

  1. Accountability:
    Accountability must permeate your entire organization. It must reside within upper management and each employee alike. Accountability consists of committing sufficient resources for compliance and designating appropriate senior business representatives to ensure overall responsibility. Accountability also means that your business will correct errors, conduct internal investigations, report certain violations, and recognize your employees who ensure that your business stays TAA and BAS compliant every day of the year.

Due Diligence:
Due diligence is always required to ensure all sales are TAA and BAS compliant. Each federal contractor who sells to the U.S. Government must comply with the federal law and FAR. When determining whether a particular product is compliant, each contractor should be able to answer the following questions:

• What is the country of origin for this product?
• How do I know this and what are my records?
• How current is the information?
• Who do I contact when I am not sure?

While vendor-provided letters of supply show due diligence, it is always important to ensure that such letters are current. Another way to ensure due diligence is to conduct an annual review of all the letters of supply and to sample individual transactions for compliance. In close-call situations, federal contractors may submit a request to the U.S. Government for a country of origin determination.

Internal Policies:
Your business operations will be more efficient and predictable if your employees can understand and follow updated written policies and internal checks. Your policies will allow your employees to quickly make right decisions and seek assistance when necessary. It is generally a good idea to have internal policies on compliance monitoring, due diligence, recordkeeping, training, reporting of TAA and BAS violations, and code of business ethics. Other policies may be applicable based on your specific risks.

Training and Awareness:
There are always new developments in the areas of BAS and TAA. Recently, Montenegro and New Zealand became the newest “designated countries” under the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement. In May 2016, U.S. Congressman Pete Visclosky included certain Buy American Statute requirements in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act. This may require the U.S. Department of Defense to purchase U.S.-made armor plate, mooring chains, ball bearings, and certain engine components among others. Another bill seeks to redefine “U.S.-made” altogether. Staying current with the new developments is a critical part of your compliance program.

Track and Automate:
It is difficult to accurately track hundreds of individual transactions in a program like MS Excel all the time. This is why it is important to automate as much as possible. Automation also means preventing employee over-rides and having a reliable backup. You will know that your tracking system is working, for example, when it reflects the latest update from one of your vendors reporting that its products are made in Morocco this month and now your sales department will be able to sell more to the U.S. Government.

Communicate and Cooperate:
Communication with vendors and across your business is a must. Your vendors must understand the importance of letting you know that their products that were made in Japan last month are made in China this month. Your compliance department must notify your sales department whether the products you sell to the U.S. Government must be TAA and BAS compliant or not. At the same time, the U.S. Government requires federal contractors to make mandatory disclosures regarding selling TAA non-compliant products. When such disclosures are made, the U.S. Government expects full cooperation. This requirement has been recently highlighted by the U.S. Department of Justice September 2015 Memorandum commonly known as the “Yates Memorandum”.

Revise and Update:
Since there are always new changes and requirements, it is important to revise and update your policies and internal checks. This should be done immediately or at least on a monthly basis. Currently, the General Services Administration requires all vendors to verify that their products are TAA compliant. If they are not, they must be removed from their GSA/Federal Supply Schedule. Federal contractors with effective compliance policies will ensure having only compliant products on their schedules.

Effective Trade Agreements Act and Buy American Statute compliance allows large and small businesses to sell more to the U.S. Government and to seize on new opportunities.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about compliance and the latest Trade Agreements Act and Buy American Statute developments, contact Mr. Kornacki at 703-288-2800 or info@centrelawgroup.com.

Note that is post is for educational use only and does not constitute legal advice.

About the Author:

Wojciech Kornacki | Centre Law & Consulting Wojciech Kornacki
Government Contract and Compliance Counsel

Wojciech Kornacki focuses on federal Government contract compliance, bid protests, and federal litigation. He represents clients in matters involving Government Accountability Office bid protests, federal agency debarments, Boards of Contract Appeals litigation, and Export Controls (ITAR and EAR) and Trade Agreements Act compliance.

 

The post Seven Steps for an Effective Compliance Program for the Buy American Statute and Trade Agreements Act appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

On June 7, 2016, the U.S. Department of State announced that it is implementing “catch-up” adjustments to the maximum amounts of the monetary penalties it assesses for regulatory violations. Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, federal agencies must make a one time “catch-up” adjustment to their civil monetary penalties in order to account for inflation. Federal agencies are required to publish interim final rules with the initial penalty adjustment amounts by July 1, 2016, and the new penalty levels must take effect not later than August 1, 2016.

The Penalties

The U.S. Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls assesses penalties for violations of the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The following amounts will be assessed for certain violations after August 1, 2016, regardless of when the actual violation occurred:

Each violation of The Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §2778. This Act imposes export and import controls on certain defense articles and defense services. This includes registration, reporting, record keeping, and due diligence requirements, among many others. Previously, the maximum penalty was $500,000. The new maximum penalty will not exceed $1,094,010 per one violation.

Each violation of the The Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §2779a. This section of the Act prohibits incentive payments to satisfy any offset agreements under certain circumstances. Generally, any U.S. supplier of defense articles or services sold, licensed, or exported, among others, is prohibited from making any incentive payments for the purpose of satisfying, in whole or in part, any offset agreement with a foreign country. Defense offset agreements are understood as side agreements that provide additional incentives to the purchaser. Previously, the maximum penalty was $500,000. The new maximum penalty will not exceed $795,445 per one violation.

Each violation of The Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §2780. This section of the Act prohibits transactions with countries supporting acts of international terrorism. Transactions include exporting (directly or indirectly) or otherwise providing (by sale, lease, loan, grant, or other means) of any munitions items, providing credit guarantees, or otherwise facilitating the acquisition of any munitions. Previously, the maximum penalty was $500,000. The new maximum penalty will not exceed $946,805 per one violation.

What Can I Do Before August 1, 2016?

Have no fear and double-check whether you are compliant. The U.S. Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls expects each U.S. exporter of defense articles and services to have comprehensive operational compliance programs. This may include policies and procedures on:

  • Corporate commitment to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance
  • Tracking of controlled items and technical data
  • Due diligence and internal monitoring
  • Training and awareness
  • Penalties for violations
  • Reporting non-compliance issues

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 allows the U.S. Department of State to exercise its discretion to determine whether it should assess civil monetary penalties lower than the maximum amount. If your compliance program identifies at least one ITAR violation, it may be beneficial to consider whether mandatory reporting is required and whether to report it before the maximum penalties increase on August 1, 2016.

You can learn more about the U.S. export controls and compliance requirements on June 23, 2016 during our webinar on New Opportunities for Small Businesses and U.S. Exporters.

Register Now | Centre Law & Consulting
Note that is post is for educational use only and does not constitute legal advice.

About the Author:

Wojciech Kornacki | Centre Law & Consulting Wojciech Kornacki
Government Contract and Compliance Counsel

Wojciech Kornacki focuses on federal Government contract compliance, bid protests, and federal litigation. He represents clients in matters involving Government Accountability Office bid protests, federal agency debarments, Boards of Contract Appeals litigation, and Export Controls (ITAR and EAR) and Trade Agreements Act compliance.

 

The post Don’t Get Caught By the Federal Civil Penalties “Catch up” Adjustments appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

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:

  1. Avoiding the use of gender-specific job titles such as “foreman” or “lineman” where gender-neutral alternatives are available
  2. Designating single-user restrooms, changing rooms, showers, or similar single-user facilities as sex-neutral
  3. 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
  4. Providing appropriate time off and flexible workplace policies for men and women
  5. Encouraging men and women equally to engage in caregiving-related activities
  6. Fostering a climate in which women are not assumed to be more likely to provide family care than men
  7. 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 | Centre Law & Consulting 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.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

Reproduced with permission from Federal Contracts Report, 105 FCR (June 21, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com

Effective Trade Agreements Act and Pricing Compliance Programs for Federal Supply Schedules

Recent scrutiny by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a $75.5 million settlement stemming from allegations of overcharging the U.S. government send a clear message: Vendors must be compliant with their Trade Agreements Act (TAA) and pricing obligations on their Federal Supply Schedules (FSS). This article describes some of the most common TAA and pricing issues and points out some of the best practices.

The U.S. government created the FSS to streamline its acquisition process through volume buying from pre-approved vendors known as schedule contractors. Pursuant to the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, 40 U.S.C. 101 et seq., the Government Services Administration (GSA) administers the FSS. This is why the FSS is also known as GSA Schedules or Multiple Award Schedules. In the past 67 years, the FSS have grown into a multibillion-dollar industry of vendors specializing in providing products and services to the U.S. government.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Parts 8, 12 and 38 govern the FSS. In accordance with FAR Part 12, FSS contracts are “commercial item contracts.” This means they may be awarded with less than full and open competition. When placing an order through the FSS, each agency is exempt from the small-business set-aside programs under FAR Part 19.

Compliance Issue 1: Buy American Statute and Trade Agreement Act

The U.S. government requires that products sold on the FSS are Buy American Statute (formerly the Buy American Act) and Trade Agreements Act compliant. In 1933, Congress passed the Buy American Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 10a-10d (BAA), which required the U.S. government to give a preference to U.S. made goods over foreign-made goods in federal procurements to protect American workers and businesses.

Congress subsequently passed the Trade Agreements Act, 19 U.S.C. § 2512 (TAA) which allows the president to waive the BAA requirements for eligible products from countries that have signed an international trade agreement with the U.S. The TAA waiver applies only once certain dollar thresholds are met. The GSA has determined that since the estimated dollar value of each schedule it administers exceeds the established TAA thresholds, the TAA is applicable to all schedules. Both acts are discussed in detail in FAR Part 25, Foreign Acquisition.

Schedule contractors must comply with the BAA and TAA requirements. Specifically, the FAR states that schedule contractors must certify that each end product offered to the U.S. government is a U.S.made or designated country end product as defined in the “Trade Agreements” solicitation clause. Many schedule contractors purchase products from European or Asian suppliers or manufacturers and resell them to the U.S. government. Thus, it is critical to ensure that each product sold to the U.S. government has adequate compliance documentation.

The GSA has recently contacted schedule contractors to verify that their products are TAA and BAA compliant. This comes, in part, in response to the recent push from Schumer, who said several schedule contractors were listing products as “Made in America” when they were actually made overseas. So far, the GSA has removed 11 vendors. In addition to being removed from the FSS, schedule contractors risk debarment, financial liability and criminal penalties.

Compliance Issue 2: Pricing Issues and Requirements

The regulation controlling the GSA schedules requires schedule contractors to provide the U.S. government with the most favorable price. General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) Section 552.238-75 Price Reduction Clause, states, in part, that schedule contractors and the contracting officer must agree upon “(1) the customer (or category of customers) which will be basis of award and (2) the Government’s price or discount relationship to the identified customer (or category of customers). This relationship shall be maintained throughout the contract period.

The GSAR requires schedule contractors to provide current, accurate and complete pricing policies and practices to the U.S. government during negotiation. Schedule contractors must also notify the U.S. government when they deviate from their standard written pricing policies.

Compliance with the Price Reduction Clause (PRC) is an ongoing obligation. However, many schedule contractors often change their business partners; their business partners change their points of production; and market prices fluctuate. Thus, it is important to monitor all of the changes affecting pricing — not only from the perspective of profitability, but also compliance.

Failure to comply with the PRC may result in substantially overcharging the U.S. government. This, in turn, could trigger a qui tam action against a schedule contractor and the involvement of the Department of Justice. According to the Justice Department, in 2015, two companies agreed to pay $75.5 million to settle claims that they misrepresented their commercial pricing practices and overcharged the U.S. government. Another company agreed to pay $44.5 million to resolve allegations that it overcharged the U.S. government for storage services. In 2016, the first major PRC noncompliance matter involved a company that agreed to pay $11 million to settle alleged false claims relating to overbilling the U.S. government on a GSA contract for six years.

Compliance Issue 3: Mandatory Disclosures of Violations

The Mandatory Disclosure Rule applies to the FSS and schedule contractors. It requires that schedule contractors report fraud and significant overpayments related to the contracts awarded by the U.S. government to the agency Office of Inspector General when a violation relates to ‘…an order against a Governmentwide acquisition contract, a multi-agency contract, a multiple-award schedule contract such as the Federal Supply Schedule, or any other procurement instrument intended for use by multiple agencies…” and to also copy the contracting officer.

This may often place schedule contractors in a difficult position of notifying all of the ordering U.S. government agencies. Failure to comply with the Mandatory Disclosure Rule is considered a cause for debarment. The GSA Office of Inspector General semiannual reports show TAA violations continue to be reported every year.

Best Practices for FSS Compliance

  • Detail one or two individuals who are directly responsible for BAA and TAA compliance.
  • Establish clear and easy to follow standards and policies.
  • Automation prevents human errors.
  • Invest in comprehensive compliance IT safeguards and internal checks early on.
  • Proper preventive training and decision flowcharts will ensure that your compliance program is responsive to market changes and fluctuating prices.
  • Conduct a third-party review of your policies and compliance practices. For close questions, seek legal advice.
  • Report TAA and pricing noncompliance issues with your FSS. This includes notifying the ordering agency, the agency responsible for the contract, and your contracting officer.
  • It may be best to hire an experienced outside counsel or consultant to handle this.

 
Conclusion

According to the GSA, the FSS are “fast, easy, and effective contracting vehicles for both customers and vendors” and are designed to mirror commercial business practices. Schedule contractors are automatically connected to multiple procurement opportunities across a wide array of U.S. government agencies. In the past six decades, the FSS have become more complex and require greater compliance. While the FSS offer many benefits, recent congressional and Justice Department scrutiny shows that compliance is paramount.

The post Wojciech Kornacki Writes Article on Pricing Compliance Programs for Bloomberg BNA appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

How is your relationship with the government going? Have you heard about the “transformational changes” that are being made to the GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules Program? And do you really know how many moons the Earth has?

Below is a round up of recently trending Federal Contracting issues you should know about.

Overly Restrictive Solicitations.

Nexagen Networks of Aberdeen, Maryland, challenged the terms of a task order request issued by the Army for information technology services. Nexagen argued that the solicitation’s requirements for experience with Oracle Endeca Information Discovery (OEID) was unduly restrictive of competition and created bias in favor of the incumbent contractor. GAO denied the protest. From the decision:

“Moreover, to the extent Nexagen’s premise is that there is no equivalent software available, that alone would not demonstrate that the TOR’s requirement is unduly restrictive. Again, the issue is not whether the specification restricts competition, but whether the specification is reasonably necessary to meet the agency’s actual needs. Even where specifications are based on a particular product – or, as Nexagen alleges here, a particular firm’s capabilities or experience – we have found that this type of requirement is not improper in and of itself; nor will an assertion that a specification was “written around” features offered by a particular firm provide a sustainable basis for protest if the record establishes that the specification is reasonably related to the agency’s minimum needs”.

And so it goes.

Gov Con Marketplace Musings

Elvis lives. The theme song for incumbents this year is “Heartbreak Hotel”. I am seeing fewer incumbent wins as the government cares less about the relationship and more about the cost. I am also seeing agencies take single-award contracts and, instead of the usual recompete for the follow on contract, they are awarding the work as a task or delivery order off a multiple-award contract vehicle. (Side note – usually the one you are not on.) Multiple requirements are also being bundled into single winner-take-all order awards. What are you seeing in the marketplace? Share your thoughts and observations in the comments below.

VA Privatization

Veterans Affairs privatization is moving along on several fronts. Sen. John McCain introduced a bill that will allow veterans to opt out of the VA healthcare system and use local healthcare providers. The VA Commission on Care is expected to issue a final report any day now. The draft report shifted health care to for veterans to more private providers. Most veterans groups oppose privatization.

Old News and the Creation of Mass Hysteria by Law, Accounting, and Consulting Firms

The Supreme Court issued a decision on Escobar holding that the implied false certification theory can be a basis for liability under the False Claims Act (for government contractors) when a defendant submitting a claim makes specific representations about the goods or services provided, but it fails to disclose non-compliance with material statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirements that make those representations misleading with respect to those goods or services; and liability under the FCA for failing to disclose violations of legal requirements does not turn upon whether those requirements were expressly designated as conditions of payment. Key word is material.

Final Rule Released on GSA Transactional Data

According to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) website, a final Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) rule will publish in the Federal Register on June 23, 2016. The rule “will reduce unnecessary burdens on contractors and small businesses and potentially save millions of dollars for the American taxpayer…and will be implemented through a pilot program across GSA contract vehicles.” It is seen as one of the most transformational changes to GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules Program in more than two decades.

A Trick Question

Use this when you don’t want to pick up the check. How many moons orbit the earth? Answer: 1.5 moons. NASA has just located a mini moon in our orbit.

About the Author

Barbara Kinosky Barbara Kinosky
Managing Parnter

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 Trending Federal Contracting Issues You Should Know appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

On June 23, 2016, the General Services Administration (GSA) amended the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) to include clauses that require vendors to report transactional data from orders placed against certain Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts, Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), and Governmentwide Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contracts.

What does this mean and what do you need to know?

First, it’s important to clarify what Transactional Data is. Transactional data refers to the information generated when the Government purchases goods or services from a vendor. It includes specific details such as descriptions, part numbers, quantities, and prices paid for the items purchased.

With this final rule, key points to note are:

  • The TDR clause is being implemented under the GSA Schedules program on a pilot basis. TDR implementation for several Schedules and Special Item Numbers (SINs) will begin in August 2016 and extend through Q1 FY2017.
  • Currently, GSA plans for a 3-year pilot affecting specific SINS at which point the pilot will be reassessed. The following Schedules/SINs are impacted by the pilot:
    • 03FAC
    • 51V
    • 58 I
    • 72
    • 73
    • 75
    • Professional Services Schedule (only for the Engineering SINs)
    • 70 (only for the following SINs: 132 8, 132 32, 132 33, 132 34, 132 54, and 132 55)
  • The new TDR requirements will be mandatory only for new Schedule contracts awarded after the Schedule becomes subject to the pilot and at the time to extend the term of the Schedule contract. Please note that vendors holding existing contracts under pilot Schedules will be encouraged to accept the new clause via a bilateral contract modification. Once accepted, vendors will not need to comply with the Commercial Sales Practices (CSP) and Price Reductions Clause (PRC).
  • Contractors in the pilot program will have ninety (90) days to accept the Mass Mod incorporating TDR.
  • TDR data is reported monthly, and there is a 30-day window to report after the end of the month.
  • GSA is amending its pricing instructions in the General Services Administration Acquisition Manual (GSAM) to place greater emphasis on price analysis when negotiating prices with Schedule vendors.
  • IFF must still be paid quarterly. However, Contractors may choose to remit IFF on a monthly basis when they report their sales, but they must do so through the TDR system.

The impact of this new rule remains to be seen, so Centre Law and Consulting will continue to report on TDR news as it develops.

About the Author

Maureen Jamieson | Centre Law & Consulting Maureen Jamieson
Executive Director of Contracts & Consulting

Maureen Jamieson has more than twenty-five years of experience managing federal contracts. She is highly experienced in solving client pricing problems and implementing effective pricing strategies for placing products and services on GSA Schedule contracts. Maureen also frequently works with clients on effective selling and marketing strategies in the federal market space.

 

The post New GSA Transactional Data Reporting Rule Issued appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

By now you have probably heard that the Department of Labor’s regulations for the white-collar exemptions to overtime compensation were finalized and will be effective December 1, 2016. You are probably also aware that your company should be analyzing how its employees are classified to ensure it is prepared to comply with the regulations come December 1. What you may not have thought about is how your analysis (and any changes to employee exemption status) may impact your federal government contracts covered by the Service Contract Labor Standards (formerly the Service Contract Act).

The final overtime regulations implement significant changes to the salary threshold required for employees in order to be considered exempt. Specifically, the salary level for the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions will become $913 per week or $47,476 annually. Although this is only half of the exemption analysis (which also requires employees meet a duties test), the DOL estimates that roughly 4 million workers will be affected by the change.

How Does the Service Contract Labor Standards Come Into Play?

The Service Contract Labor Standards (SCLS) generally requires contractors with covered service contracts pay their “service employees” a minimum wage and fringe benefits that have been determined by the Secretary of Labor as prevailing in the locality where the employee is working. These wages and fringe benefits are reflected in one or more wage determinations attached to the SCLS contract. However, only “service employees” are subject to the wage and fringe benefit requirements of the wage determination. Thus, properly classifying a worker as a service employee is extremely important for determining compliance with the SCLS.

“Service employees” are in turn defined as any employee that is not exempt from overtime under the administrative, executive, or professional exemptions. Thus, for government contractors, one very likely result of reclassifying employees from exempt to non-exempt under the new FLSA regulations is that these now non-exempt employees will also become subject to SCLS wage and fringe benefit obligations. The difficulty will be in aligning or mapping these now non-exempt “service employees” to the positions on the wage determination (or directory of occupations). Assuming these employees otherwise meet the duties test for the white-collar exemptions (which typically require higher level responsibility and decision-making), the directory of occupations and wage determinations likely do not currently contain positions of a similar nature. Thus, absent proactive action by the DOL, contractors may need to make conformance requests for covered contracts for these newly exempt positions.

What Should Contractors Be Doing Now?

It is important that contractors assess proper classification of its employees over the next few months to determine which positions may need to be reclassified as non-exempt from overtime starting December 1. In addition, contractors should assess the resulting increase in SCLS applicability for those employees that will now be considered “service employees” and ensure proposals and existing contracts account for any increased costs as a result.

The DOL has jurisdiction to pursue claims against contractors that fail to classify workers appropriately. For example, last week the DOL announced a $1.5 million settlement in back wages and fringe benefits with a contractor that allegedly misclassified workers subject to SCLS. Notably, the settlement also covers workers with 10 subcontractors.

While the consent findings reflect that the contractor will seek an equitable adjustment to account for its increased costs based on the applicability of SCLS to additional employees, being in the position of paying seven figures worth of back pay while waiting for the government to decide whether an equitable adjustment will be provided is certainly less than ideal. Contractors can be far better positioned when engaged in proactive analysis of proper employee classification along with ensuring that subcontractors are also aware of the applicability of SCLS.

About the Author

Marina Blickley | Centre Law & Consulting Marina Blickley
Associate Attorney

Marina Blickley is primarily focused in the Government Contracting and Non-Profit industries. She regularly assists clients in all aspects of employment and labor law including representation and defense of employers against claims of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation/whistleblower, and wage and hour violations before administrative agencies and state and federal courts.

 

The post Proper Classification of Workers is Important for Compliance with FLSA and SCLS appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

The Federal Marketplace can be challenging and risky for the uninitiated, and even for seasoned contractors. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) alone contains 53 parts over 1,903 pages, including nearly 590 provisions and clauses (some with alternates), and many of which will ultimately find their way into your contracts. And this doesn’t even include Agency-specific acquisition regulations which supplement and implement the FAR.

As if securing and administering government contracts were not challenging enough, how about trying to figure out the puzzle of who buys your supplies and services, where and how they buy them, and who do they buy from?

Unfortunately, some folks still rely exclusively on agencies’ Forecasts of Contracting Opportunities (FCO) thinking this is all they need for identifying upcoming procurement opportunities. While Federal Law (P.L. 100-656) requires all Federal agencies with procurement budgets of $50+ Million (almost all of them these days) to publish an FCO, the FCOs from most agencies are unfortunately not robust, are hardly all-inclusive with their information, and only tell part of the story.

Fortunately putting together the Who—What—When—Where and How puzzle pieces is much easier than securing and administering a contract thanks to the Federal Procurement Data System — Next Generation, commonly known as FPDS-NG or FPDS.

A Better Solution

A great way to know where procurements are going is to see where they’ve been. That’s where Federal Procurement Data System comes in. It is the real-time relational database serving the government acquisition community as the authoritative source of contract information, which contains summary level data and is used at all levels of the Federal government for policy and trend analysis. The numbers and data in FPDS change every hour of every workday. The system contains millions of transactions, and there are millions of permeations for extracting various combinations of data elements to suit your unique needs.

Unlike FPDS, the USAspending.gov website uses a static approach to capturing and reporting data, meaning the data is presented and simple charts and graphs which do not change until the next update, which is required every 30 days under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. This makes access to current and real-time data through FPDS is invaluable, and knowing how to put the pieces of this puzzle together can help competitively position your company and help boost your federal sales.

Hands-On Learning

Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of learning a system that might new to you though! On August 16, 2016, learn the intricacies of FPDS in one-day course, “Introduction to the Federal Procurement Data System”.

This hands-on, dynamic course unlocks the mysteries and power of FPDS for your company’s competitive benefit and includes content such as:

  • Providing an overview and requirements of FPDS reporting by Federal agencies
  • Detailing what transactions are required to be reported along with what is available and what is not available through FPDS
  • Learning who buys what, how they buy, and whether these procurements are conducted through the Federal Supply Schedules Program, Other Government Agency Contracts, or on the open market
  • Identifying when your competitors’ contracts will expire or when other contracts in your commercial line of endeavor are due to expire and be re-competed
  • Discovering if set-asides are used in acquiring the products and services you offer and how you may qualify
  • Explaining the distinct advantages of using FPDS vs. USAspending.gov

This course will use a combination of both lecture and hands-on laboratory, whereby participants will create individual FPDS accounts and actually create and run reports using standard reporting as well as the system’s invaluable and powerful ad hoc reporting capabilities. The critical knowledge, skills, and abilities gained from this intense one-day training class can be taken back to the workplace, along with reports ready to be run and re-run to meet your company’s needs.

What’s In It for You?

Enhance your company’s competitive position in the Federal market place by harnessing the power of procurement data. Stop wasting scarce marketing resources targeting agencies where opportunities do not exist. Instead, use data from FPDS to focus, target, and hone your marketing efforts in areas which will offer the best potential returns on your marketing investment. You’ll also save time by eliminating the need for time-consuming and often costly Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for data.

Your competitors have this information and use it to their competitive benefit and advantage, why shouldn’t you? If you want to be the “go-to-person” at your company for this type of data and you want your company to be more competitive, then this course is for you.

We look forward to seeing you on August 16, so we can put the puzzle pieces together!

About the Author

Wayne Simpson | Centre Law & Consulting Wayne Simpson, CSCM
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 The Procurement Puzzle: Putting the Pieces Together to Boost Federal Sales appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

The Payment of Subcontractors proposed rule, which appeared in the Federal Register in January 2016, is the latest in a series of efforts to hold the Prime accountable for timely payments to its Subs.

Those who follow these blogs know that ‘payment’ is a hot button topic for me whether it is payment to the Prime by the Government or payment to the Subcontractor by the Prime. We’ve previously highlighted the “Accelerating Payments to Small Businesses” rule whose aim is to enable small businesses subcontractors to receive payments within 15 days of receipt of a proper invoice. And not quite a year ago, I reviewed the finer points of the “Paid to Cost” rule, which requires payment to Subs thirty days after the Prime submits its invoice to the Government.

This Payment of Subcontractors proposed rule has made a long trip. It originated as Section 1334 of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010! This statute requires the Prime to self-report to the Contracting Officer (CO) when the Prime makes late or reduced payments to small business subcontractors. In addition, the CO is required to record the identity of contractors with a history of three or more unjustified reduced payments to small business subcontractors within a 12-month period [FAR 42.1502(g)(2)] in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).

What Does It Mean?

That’s a lot to take in, but essentially:

  • In an era of mandatory disclosure, the contractor must turn itself in to the CO along with the reason(s) for the reduced payment.
  • The CO will add the contractor’s identity to FAPIIS, the database that has been established to track contractor misconduct and performance.

The FAPIIS database also contains Federal contractor criminal, civil, and administrative proceedings in connection with federal awards, suspensions and debarments, administrative agreements issued in lieu of suspension or debarment, non-responsibility determinations, contracts terminated for fault, and defective pricing determinations – truly a tough neighborhood!

What Are the Points to Consider in This Rule?

First, what does a reduced payment mean? FAR 19.701 defines it as a payment that is less than the amount agreed upon in a subcontract in accordance with its terms and conditions for supplies and services for which the Government has paid the prime contractor.

Second, are any other processes affected? FAR 42.1502 is revised to include reports of reduced payments in the past performance evaluation in each of the ratings definitions found at Table 42-2. A new clause, FAR 52.242-XX, implements the rule.

Finally, to which contracts does this apply? This statute defines a ‘covered contract’ as a contract under which a prime contractor is required to develop a subcontracting plan. I was almost through an initial reading of this rule before that point was made clear. That narrows the scope of affected Prime contracts but only a little. FAR 19.702 [The Small Business Subcontracting Program] instructs that in negotiated acquisitions, each solicitation of offers to perform a contract or contract modification, that individually is expected to exceed $700,000 and that has subcontracting opportunities, shall require the apparently successful offeror to submit an acceptable subcontracting plan.

As of last week the Councils were comparing notes with the objective of issuing a final rule. Payment rules are typically welcomed by one party and dreaded by the other, but the dynamics are universally interesting.

Contact me if you have questions about this, but I’ll also review – probably the final rule – in my Federal Contract Basics or Subcontracting Under the FAR courses this fall.

About the Author:

Rich Zimmerman | Centre Law & Consulting Rich Zimmerman
Project Manager

Richard E. Zimmerman has more than 25 years of experience as a contracts professional both in Government and the private sector. His excellent background in FAR, Agency supplements, and their application over the procurement life cycle make him a critical resource for PMs, prime contractors, and subcontractors.

The post Subcontracting Payment Rules: Make the Payment or Incur the Penalty appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

If you have been working on GSA Schedules for the past few years, you may remember that in May 2012, GSA’s initiative was the end of the Schedule Input Program (SIP) and the mandatory use of the new Formatted Price List (FPL) for the Financial and Business Solutions (FABS) Schedule. There was much excitement generated by this news as we were all ready for the end of SIP. In January 2014, GSA announced that FABS would no longer utilize the FPL and all vendors were to return to SIP. As we look into the years ahead, I am optimistic that eventually the Formatted Product Tool (FPT) will truly be the end of SIP.

What is the FPT?

FPT is a systems upgrade that will be activated within the existing eOffer and eMod platforms and NOT in a separate application. There will be an automatic upload of products and prices to GSA Advantage!

The General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) is planning to implement the FPT across the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program beginning with select pilot Schedules in late July 2016.

The order of the FPT rollout, with approximately two week intervals, is as follows:

  • Schedule 58 I – Professional Audio/Video
  • Schedule 72 – Furnishings & Floor Coverings (to be released with Schedule 58 I)
  • Schedule 75 – Office Products/Supplies
  • Schedule 73 – Food Service, Hospitality & Cleaning Equipment
  • Schedule 51 V – Hardware Superstore
  • Schedule 70 – Information Technology Products, Software & Services

What Do I Have to Do?

If you accept the FPT, you will be required to complete the one-time “rebaselining” of price list data as well as other data fields for proper display of these items. GSA can then ensure all of your currently awarded products are uploaded to GSA Advantage! For baselining, the contractor will utilize a provided template in eMod to submit all awarded products and associated product data, to include Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) and Universal Product Code Type A data, when applicable. All descriptive information required by SIP will be captured in one submission via eMod and uploaded to GSA Advantage!. This will become your FSS Price List upon execution of the modification.

If you accept the FPT bilateral modification, you will have 60 days to complete the rebaseline process. Please note that with the FPT, Contracting Officers will now have additional data analytics and transparency in helping them determine that pricing is fair and reasonable. Phase I of FPT is focused on collecting standard part numbers for items on Schedule.

Is Participation Mandatory?

No. At this time, acceptance of the upcoming Schedule Refresh/Mass Modification is optional if you are on one of the pilot Schedules. However, FPT will soon be mandatory for all new offers on product Schedules.

Does FPT Include Products and Services?

No. Phase 1 of this pilot program only includes products. If you have both products and services on the pilot schedule (such as IT 70), you are to enter the product information in the FPT pricing template and enter the services information in a text file. Both documents are to be uploaded via FPT, but in different file formats.

Recommendations

My recommendation is to completely understand the FPT process prior to accepting the upcoming Refresh Solicitation/Mass Modification for one of the pilot schedules. Continue to follow GSA Interact for updates on the Formatted Product Tool and for notice of the Refresh Solicitation/Mass Mod release.

I highly recommend attending the next GSA FPT training by registering for the next webinar on July 27, 2016 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm ET.
 
 
About the Author:

Maureen Jamieson | Centre Law & Consulting Maureen Jamieson
Executive Director of Contracts and Consulting

Maureen Jamieson has more than twenty-five years of experience managing federal contracts. She is highly experienced in solving client pricing problems and implementing effective pricing strategies for placing products and services on GSA Schedule contracts.

 

The post The Exit of SIP and Entrance of the Formatted Product Tool appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Centre Law & Consulting

 
This guide pinpoints some of the major government contracts-related developments that occurred over the last six months. These developments create new opportunities and compliance requirements that people who conduct business with the Federal Government need to know about.

Major Regulatory Developments

Compliance: False Claims Act Penalties Almost Double
The U.S. Department of Justice issued an interim rule increasing monetary penalties for contractors. Civil monetary penalties under certain sections of the False Claims Act are increased from $5,500 to $10,781 (minimum penalty), and from $11,000 to $21,563 (maximum penalty). Considering that each transaction or invoice could be considered as a separate violation, compliance is paramount. You can read the entire rule, and it will be effective on August 1, 2016.

Compliance: New Cybersecurity Requirements For Federal Contractors
The U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and GSA issued a final rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation by adding a new subpart for the basic safeguarding of contractor information systems that process, store, or transmit Federal contracting information (FCI). (FAR 52.204-21) FCI means “information, not intended for public release, that is provided by or generated for the Government under a contract to develop or deliver a product or service to the Government, but not including information provided by the Government to the public (such as on public Web sites) or simple transactional information, such as necessary to process payments.” This rule is expected to be applicable to most, if not all, of the new contracts. It is effective as of June 15, 2016.

Opportunity: Small Business Mentor-Protégé Program
The SBA is amending its regulations to establish a Government-wide mentor protégé program for all small business concerns. The new rule also makes changes to the current joint-venture provisions. This development is expected to create many new opportunities for small and not so small businesses. This rule will be effective on August 24, 2016.

Compliance: No Discrimination on the Basis of Sex
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs created new nondiscrimination obligations that affect certain Federal Government contractors and subcontractors. The new obligations relate to the Executive Order 11246 – Equal Employment Opportunity. This order prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex and requires employers to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants and employees are treated without regard to their sex. You can read our article on this major development or read the final rule, which will be effective on August 14, 2016.

Opportunity: Export Control Reform Revisions
As part of the Export Control Reform initiative, the Department of State updated the definitions of “export”, and “reexport or retransfer” in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). This is seen as a positive development by many because now the new ITAR definitions will be better synchronized with the Export Administration Regulations definitions. This rule will be effective on September 1, 2016.

Opportunity: GSA Transactional Data Reporting
GSA amended its rules to now require Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contractors to report transactional data from orders placed against certain FSS contracts, Government-wide Acquisition Contracts and Government-wide Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contracts. Some experts believe that this rule could potentially result in significant savings to federal contractors because it may eliminate other reporting requirements. You can read our article on this development or review the rule, which became effective as of June 23, 2016.

Opportunity: The Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2016
This law is designed to make major changes to the current Federal Government record disclosure practices. Among others, federal agencies are expected to post more records online and make records available to requesters in an electronic format. You can read a good summary on the White House website. This act became Public Law No. 114-185 on June 30, 2016.

Compliance: The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015
This law requires federal agencies to adjust the level of civil monetary penalties with an initial “catch-up” adjustment through an interim final rulemaking, and make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation. This act became Public Law 114-74 on November 2, 2015. Now, federal agencies are required to publish interim final rules with the initial penalty adjustment amounts by July 1, 2016, and the new penalty levels will be legally binding on August 1, 2016. You can read our article on this development.

Significant Legal Decisions

Compliance: Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States Et Al. Ex Rel. Escobar Et Al. (2016)
In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether a defendant should face False Claims Act (FCA) liability only if it failed to disclose the violation of a contractual, statutory, or regulatory provision that the Federal Government expressly designated a condition of payment. The Court answered this question by stating that defendants could be liable for violating certain requirements even if the requirements were not designated as conditions of payment. Any misrepresentation about compliance with a statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirement had to be material to the Federal Government’s payment decision in order to be actionable under the FCA. This case was decided on June 16, 2016.

Opportunity: Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. V. United States (2016)
In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether the Department of Veterans Affairs had to award contracts to veteran-owned small business concerns when there was a reasonable expectation that 2 or more such concerns would bid for the contract at a fair and reasonable price that offered best value to the U.S. Government. The Court answered this question with a unanimous yes! This decision creates many new opportunities for veteran-owned small business concerns. This case was decided on June 16, 2016.

Compliance: Remington Arms Co., LLC, v. The United States, and Colt Defense, LLC, and FN America, LLC (2016)
In this post-award bid protest, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims examined whether the contracting officer’s (“CO”) decision to award a contract to Colt while Colt was still in bankruptcy and labeled “high risk” by the Defense Contract Management Agency was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. The Court concluded that the CO’s decision was arbitrary and capricious because it was not supported by the record which showed that Colt was undergoing bankruptcy proceedings. This case was decided on March 30, 2016.

Opportunity: B-411466.3, Fluor Energy Technology Services, LLC
In this matter, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) recommended full reimbursement of costs for filing and pursuing protest where the agency unduly delayed taking corrective action in the face of a clearly meritorious protest. The protester was able to show that a reasonable agency inquiry into initial protest allegations would have revealed prejudicial errors in the agency’s cost realism evaluation. This matter was decided on June 7, 2016.

Note that is post is for educational use only and does not constitute legal advice.

About the Author:

Wojciech Kornacki | Centre Law & Consulting Wojciech Kornacki
Government Contract and Compliance Counsel

Wojciech Kornacki focuses on federal Government contract compliance, bid protests, and federal litigation. He represents clients in matters involving Government Accountability Office bid protests, federal agency debarments, Boards of Contract Appeals litigation, and Export Controls (ITAR and EAR) and Trade Agreements Act compliance.

 

The post Federal Contractor Survival Guide (2016 Mid-Year Update) appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


View the full article

Sign in to follow this  
×