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Everything posted by jtolli

  1. What level are you at? From your post, and the fact that you say, "there are hundreds of card holders and thousands of transactions made each year", I assume you are in the Contracting Office at the Agency/Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC) level. My experience with the Government Purchase Card (GPC) has largely been with DoD (Army). The Billing Official, or Authorizing Official (the title in some DoD agencies) has to review and approve each transaction for Cardholders under their Managing Account. There is no requirement for the A/OPC to review each transaction, although some A/OPCs require their review and approval for certain transactions (e.g supplies above $5,000, services above $2,500, all commercial training purchases, etc.). Although their is no broad regulatory/policy requirement for the A/OPC to review/approve all micropurchases, your organization could certainly put such a policy in place. Like you, I agree this is not practical/feasible in most cases, and doesn't make sense. As you say, the standard policy (DoD) is for the A/OPC to use Insights on Demand (IOD) to review transactions that are "flagged" for review, and they can choose to randomly select other transactions for review as well. As I recall, it's been a while since I have been involved with the GPC program, the periodic audit requirement was done away with by DoD, and IOD is now the preferred tool to conduct "audits" of the GPC program.
  2. In my recent experience (with DoD) laptops have pretty much replaced all desktop computers. Rarely do you see any employees, either government or contractor, with a desktop computer. Yes, laptops are mobile, but not everyone with a laptop takes it out of the Government facility. During my previous 2 assignments laptops were always considered ""incidental to the place of performance", even if the contractor employees were occasionally taking them out of the Government facility to work. The way accountability was maintained is there was a Government employee assigned responsibility for the laptops. That Government employee would then "hand receipt" the laptops to the contractor employee. We did have one instance where a contractor employee lost a laptop (stolen from her car). I know it became a sticky issue as the contractor said they were not responsible for any Government property in accordance with the terms of the contract. I wasn't directly involved, so don't know how the issue was resolved.
  3. One of my most memorable quotes from Mr. Vern Edwards is, "I will let no one know more about my job than me." That has stuck with me for years, and I try to live by it.
  4. I witnessed this type of stuff in the last contracting office I worked in. Some 1102's had the attitude that since legal had to review the documents, then it was better to push documents through to legal without doing a thorough review, as legal would edit it to say what they wanted it to say anyway.
  5. In a previous job I had, COR was part of my position description. A new boss come on-board and said that COR can't be part of the position description as a COR can only be appointed by a Contracting Officer, and can't be "assigned" as a duty. So she had the position description changed to remove COR. Either way, it didn't change my actual job. I was a COR before and after the position description changed.
  6. Not sure of your agency, but in DoD the Contracting Officer is supposed to provide the COR's supervisor with feedback regarding the COR's performance. This is from DoDI 5000.72, Enclosure 3, paragraph 1.i. "Provides feedback on COR performance to the COR’s supervisor. If the COR’s reports and performance are inadequate, discuss performance with the COR. If the reports and the COR’s performance continue to be inadequate, discuss the COR’s performance with the requiring activity or the COR’s management. If reports or performance continue to be inadequate, notify both the COR and requiring activity or COR management that the COR designation is (will be) terminated and request nominations for a replacement COR."
  7. Speaking from a DoD standpoint, I don't know of anything the prohibits it. One concern might be if the cardholder had to agree to certain terms and conditions as part of signing up for an account. In actuality it has been very rare in my experience in the GCPC program that a vendor will not take orders over the phone. Also, most of what my cardholders purchase are either from mandatory sources (UNICOR, AbilityOne) of from existing Government contracts (GSA or Army CHESS), so they rarely buy stuff from a commercial vendor, but it does happen. The only restriction that I am aware of in regards to setting up accounts is with Third Party Payment services (e.g. PayPal). Cardholders are prohibited from setting up accounts for that.
  8. I have seen this behavior a lot in the government. People are afraid to make decisions. My current team lead is that way. If someone asks a question, instead of us answering, she wants to up-channel it to higher HQ. Her thinking is that if we give someone advice (e.g. making a decision), and the advice turns out to be wrong, then they will blame us for giving the wrong advice. It drives me crazy! I have also worked in a contracting office where specialists don't even review documents in a procurement package because they aren't the final reviewer/approver, so "why waste my time reviewing the document". For example, they wouldn't review a Justification & Approval because it had to be reviewed/approved by legal anyway. So they would send forward a document with many deficiencies saying "legal will tell us everything that is wrong with it anyway, so why should I even waste time reviewing it." In essence, everyone just wants to be a paper pusher, and push the paper to the next office. This isn't exactly what you asked about, but I feel it is closely related. Until people are forced to change, then they won't.
  9. Here is what the Army's Request for Service Contract Approval (RSCA) form says: "When contracting for services, care must be taken to ensure that no illegal out-sourcing or improper conversion is taking place. Illegal “out-sourcing” and improper conversion involve shifting work from civilian positions to contract personnel (this can happen even if the civilian position is not encumbered). In environments that involve fiscal uncertainty, declining budgets, or hiring freezes, special vigilance is required to ensure these things do not occur. Due to congressional moratorium on A-76/ public private competitions, no out-sourcing is currently allowed. If the moratorium on A-76/ public private competitions ends, a competition is required. Work currently being performed by inhouse civilian employees or designated for in-house civilian employee performance may not be directly converted to contractor performance. If law and policy is ever changed to allow direct conversions to contract performance, a cost comparison must still be done under DoDI 7041.04 (Estimating and Comparing the Full Costs of Civilian and Active Duty Military Manpower and Contract Support, 3 July 2013), in order to establish which source of labor is the least costly. Title 10, United States Code § 2461 prohibits converting a function performed by at least one appropriated fund government employee to contract performance unless there has been a public-private competition under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76. There is currently a Congressional moratorium on public-private competitions pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Section 325. However, “conversion” of functions does not include the augmenting of civilian staff with contractors unless government employees are displaced, reassigned, subjected to a reduction in force, or otherwise adversely affected. (For additional information, please see the Government Accountability Office case John P. Santry B-402827. Agencies are recommended to discuss the issue with their employment and personnel law advisor and their contract law advisor.) If there is an applicable bargaining unit agreement concerning out-sourcing, the provisions of the agreement will prevail and must be adhered to for bargaining unit employees (though such an agreement does not take precedence over Title 10, U.S.C.). Further prohibitions on contracting under certain conditions can be found in 10 U.S.C. § 129a(f)." There are a series of 6 questions are the RSCA from that must be answered: "1 Will any non-temporary or non-term appropriated fund employee currently performing any functions described in the contract Statement of Work be displaced, reassigned, subjected to a reduction in force, or otherwise adversely affected as a result of the proposed contract action? 2 Is the function proposed for contract performance meeting a requirement previously performed by a particular Army civilian position (or positions) when a program or budget decision eliminated the civilian position (whether that function was formerly documented with an authorization or was undocumented and performed by an overhire)? 3 Is the function proposed for contract performance meeting a requirement previously approved for in-sourcing but that was never encumbered? 4 Will the proposed contract action fundamentally change the nature of the work performed by appropriated fund employees? 5 Is this new contract (or this increase in level of effort on a pre-existing contract) the result of the establishment of numerical goals or budgetary savings targets regarding the civilian workforce? 6 Is this contract, modification, or this increase in level of effort on a pre-existing contract, the result of the imposition of a civilian hiring freeze?" You might want to look into the above references, and see what they say.
  10. Our supporting contracting office (Army) is now inserting 52.204-14 Service Contract Reporting Requirements into contracts being awarded.
  11. To add to what others have said, the DFARS provides the authority for purchases up to $25,000 with the GPC @ 213-301(2)(II) which says: "(2) An individual appointed in accordance with 201.603-3 (a) also may use the Governmentwide commercial purchase card to make a purchase that exceeds the micro-purchase threshold but does not exceed $25,000, if— (ii) The individual making the purchase— (A) Is authorized and trained in accordance with agency procedures; (B) Complies with the requirements of FAR 8.002 in making the purchase; and (C) Seeks maximum practicable competition for the purchase in accordance with FAR 13.104(b)." In the Army, individuals with authority to make such purchases at called "Ordering Officers". They are issued a Delegation of Procurement Authority as an Ordering Officer. This is addressed in the AFARS.
  12. From https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/ecmra_splash/ ECMRA is de-commissioned as of COB June 19th, 2020. The data collection functionality will transition to the System for Award Management (https://www.sam.gov) by the end of FY20. For additional details and updates regarding this planned transition, please see the following links: Policy and Data regarding the Inventory of Contracted Services: https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/cpic/cp/inventory_of_services_contracts.html. Status of DFARS Rule implementing SAM reporting - Case Number 2018-D063: https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/dars/opencases/dfarscasenum/dfars.pdf. Please update your bookmarks with the new URL https://www.sam.gov.
  13. I am not an expert at this, but have dealt with contracts in many different States before. It is my understanding that if a State has laws that have overtime laws that differ from the FLSA, then the State laws also apply. For example, in California any work over 8 hours a day is considered overtime. See here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/workhours/overtime "Some states have overtime laws. In cases where an employee is subject to both the state and federal overtime laws, the employee is entitled to overtime according to the higher standard (i.e., the standard that will provide the higher overtime pay)."
  14. ji20874 gave some good general advice. Just to add I typically look for indicators that the PWS (or SOW if you prefer) is not requiring the contractor to perform inherently governmental functions (FAR Subpart 7.5), or personal services (FAR Subpart 37.104). I have many years of experience reviewing these documents. In my experience you need to have some analytical skills, critical reading skills, and common sense. One example that comes to mind is a PWS for IT support services that I reviewed where the contractor was tasked to "monitor the networks for security issues". That was all that specific task required. My feedback to the requiring activity was, and what do you want the contractor to do if they detect issues? Are they just supposed to monitor, do you want them to correct the issues, report the issue to the Government, what? In my personal experience a good review takes a special skill set, most 1102's I have worked with either do not have this skill set, or are too busy to do a comprehensive review of these documents. Your mileage may vary.
  15. As h2h pointed out, this issue goes beyond acquisitions. It appears to be common in any sort of rating program where humans determine the rating. Going back to my active duty Air Force days, we had an enlisted performance rating system that the Air Force eventually replaced because the vast majority of people were getting the top rating. When the new rating system was deployed, it was emphasized that most people would be "average" performers, and therefore should receive average ratings. This only lasted a little while, as I recall less than a year, until people complained that it was hurting these average performers, as some supervisors were once again giving their average performers the top rating. Many of these "top performers" were now given a promotion advantage (the promotion system was weighted with the performance rating being one of the factors). While many "satisfactory" performers were actually above satisfactory, but their supervisors didn't want to contribute towards over inflating the "new" performance rating system. As a civil service employee, I have seen the above situation played out again. It depends on the agency/organization you are assigned to. Some organizations are liberal with giving top ratings, and some feel that "satisfactory" really is the proper rating for the "average" performer. There are others, such as my current organization, that falls somewhere between those 2 philosophies.
  16. I have a bit of experience with teleworking, both in industry and as a federal employee. My first industry job after military retirement was a full-time telework position. I did that for about 2 1/2 years. I later worked for a DoD 4th estate agency that had a pretty liberal telework policy. For my first 6 months or so with the DoD agency, I teleworked full time as there was just not enough office space for some of us. Once they located office space, we teleworked one day per pay period. In theory telework sounds good. But it requires a lot of self-discipline, even for those who are considered top level performers in the office. Teleworking from home can be subject to a lot of distractions that you don't have at work, at least that was my experience. People prone to abuse their time at work (e.g. smoke breaks, chat breaks, etc.) are likely more prone to do so while teleworking. One 1102 I worked with, who was considered a top notch employee by her supervisor, referred to her telework Friday as "FO Friday". I will let you figure out what FO means. I got the impression that many people who teleworked felt the same as her. Overall, I think the performance risks of telework outweigh the benefits, but I am old school.
  17. It's kind of hard to answer the question without knowing the specifics of the 1101 position. By specifics I mean the job responsibilities, and not just the job title. "COR" duties vary widely from job to job. Some 1102's are now setting in jobs as 1101's, when they were hired into 1102 positions. This is especially true in the Army who supposedly came down a few years back and said to be an 1102 you have to work in a contracting office. That's the case in my current job. I work with teammates who were 1102's, were hired as 1102's, then converted to 1101's due to the Army policy. Like COR jobs and titles, 1101 jobs and titles vary widely. I look at 1101 jobs almost daily on USAJOBS, and there appear to be more and more 1101 jobs being advertised with duties that sound a whole lot like an 1102 position. I have also personally seen 1102's sitting in jobs titled as COR. There are also very lucrative high graded 1101 jobs. In my last Agency the HCA, an SES position, was an 1101. But generally speaking, there are a lot more 1102 jobs out there, and usually 1102 jobs are generally higher graded positions.
  18. The rule for paying "checkout fees" with the Government Purchase Card (GPC) changed a while back. It depends on where (State) the vendor is located See: https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/pdi/pc/faq.html#q18 "Can I purchase from merchants that charge a surcharge/checkout fee to use the GPC? Answer: It depends on where the merchant is located. If the merchant is located within a U.S. state or U.S. territories permitting merchants to impose a surcharge/checkout fee for charge/credit card purchases, then the CH may either make the purchase with the fee pursuant to the following requirements or consider another merchant that does not charge a surcharge/checkout fee. Surcharge/checkout fees are not imposed by merchants within the following U.S. states, which do not permit such fees: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah." As for PayPal and other third party payment processors, the GPC rules say that they can be used only if there is no other vendor who accepts credit card payments. This kind of goes counter to the Government's push to use small businesses. Many small businesses use a Third Party Payment processor as the fees are cheaper than the fees charged to accept a credit card payment, but the rules don't allow us to purchase from these vendors unless they are the only one's who offer the product or service. Use to be payment through a Third Party Payment processor was flat out forbidden, so the rules have eased up some. I suspect they may be eased up even more, as more and more (small) vendors move to Third Party Payment vs. credit card payments.
  19. Been there, and done that many times over. At least you have a director who is concerned with having a quality SOW/PWS. My experience has been that I appear to be the only party involved who really cares that the PWS is well written. The attitude of everyone else has usually been why sweat it, it really isn't that important, and would only become an issue if we go to court, which rarely happens so why invest the time trying to perfect the document? So I usually fix what I can, as it easier to fix it yourself than to try to explain what is wrong, and end up having to do it yourself anyway. Of course some things you can't fix yourself, so you end up with a not so good document getting into the contract.
  20. If the designated office can't receive proposals at the time specified, and time does not permit an amendment to the solicitation, proposals will be due at the same time on the next Government work day.
  21. Reminds me of a response we received to an RFI. The company didn't respond with any relevant information, but instead provided a sales pitch for a software product they were selling; telling us how we could benefit from it. For those of us who had to review the response, it did not leave a positive impression on us, much like receiving spam or junk mail.
  22. You can also find SaaS products on GSA Advantage classified as term software licenses (a product or supply).
  23. I don't know a lot about the SEWP agency catalogs, but my last Agency did establish some. My understanding is that they are a lot like FAR Part 8 BPA's. There is a competition amongst SEWP contract holders up front to establish an agency catalog. Based on that competition, an agency catalog is then created for those specific products. The catalog may contain several contractors who offer that product, with their prices, or it may only contain one contractor. From that point on, any requirement the Agency has for a product in the catalog can be restricted to only those contractors who have an agency catalog for the product. I'm not clear about how SEWP does this within the confines of FAR Part 16 however. If there are multiple contractors for the catalog, the order is competed amongst those contractors. If there is only one contractor in the catalog, then no competition occurs.
  24. You could do that. I have never seen the contracting office "keep" these spreadsheets, it was the CORs who kept them, although they were part of the COR file that is available to the contracting office. Here is a real world scenario where having the contractor provide the spreadsheets with each invoice would be problematic. You have a service contract that involves a lot of travel under a Cost CLIN. When I say a lot I mean 30 - 60 trips a month. The contractor is required by contract to submit travel requests to the COR for approval prior to travel. The travel requests includes among other information the estimated cost for the trip. Prior to approving the travel the COR is required to verify funds remain to cover the projected travel costs. Since billing occurs after the travel is completed, the payment system or the spreadsheet submitted by the contractor with their previous invoice, will not reflect travel costs that have been incurred, but have yet to be billed. Maintaining the invoice spreadsheet allows the COR to log each of these travel requests as they come in, and verify that sufficient funds remain the cover the next trip. I guess you could require that the contractor submit am up-to-date spreadsheet with each travel request if you wanted to.
  25. I have seen the requirement to maintain such a log specified in COR appointment letters. For fixed price contracts it is usually not a big deal, however for Time and Materials and Labor Hour contracts, and I would assume also for Cost contracts, it is a bit more important. CORs are/were to use such a tracking mechanism to verify that sufficient funds remain on the contract to pay invoices that are submitted. While the tracking spreadsheet is not the "official record" of the balance of funds, the payment system is, it certainly should be a quick way to ascertain whether funds remain to pay the invoice. While you could go into the automated payment system to determine if funds remain, that is usually much more work than having a properly maintained spreadsheet that can be used to quickly see how much money is left. For example, the Army now uses the General Funds Enterprise Business System (GFEBS) as their payment system. To go into GFEBS to validate the balance of funds would take between 5 - 10 minutes per contract, depending how proficient you are with the system, and what information you had to begin with (having the contract number would typically not be enough to quickly get to the data you are searching for). You could do the same thing within a couple of minutes if you use a tracking spreadsheet. In the DoD Agency I now work with, neither the CORs or the contracting office even has access to the payment system to verify remaining funds, so a spreadsheet maintained by the COR is even more important.
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