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Two scenarios – both involving small businesses considering a future RFP (not yet released).

 

  1. Company X is considering a bid on a Navy RFP and the company President is a cousin of the Government PM. Their relationship is purely personal and no business is discussed when they communicate.

     

  2. Company Y is considering a bid on the same RFP and the President of company Y is a good friend of the Government PM. They served together in Iraq and the President and the PM have met regularly to discuss company capabilities and the Government's future needs. 

     

Do either or both of these situations represent a conflict of interest that would require disclosure as part of the bidding process (assuming the future RFP includes a OCI clause)? If unclear, how and when could each company obtain a ruling before the RFP hits the street?

 

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Are you asking about reporting requirement for the company president or for the Government program manager?  Either way, I'm not aware of any reporting requirement for the scenarios you shared.

A company president may ask his or her in-house or outside counsel for an opinion.  Similarly, a Government program manager can ask his or her agency ethics adviser for an opinion.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Don't be silly, SmBiz owner. Your inquiry here about such a matter is foolish. Consult a government contracts attorney. Don't ask strangers at a website.

 

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5 minutes ago, Vern Edwards said:

Don't be silly, SmBiz owner. Your inquiry here about such a matter is foolish. Consult a government contracts attorney. Don't ask strangers at a website.

 

Seriously? From my observation, the majority of posts on this website are from people trying to understand the convoluted and complex aspects of government contracting. If all of the legal / contractual questions were removed from this website, I don't think it would have a reason to exist. I thought the point was for those with less knowledge to seek guidance from those who have more insight. If we had a government contracts attorney, I wouldn't be wasting my time on this forum. As a small business, we are simply trying to understand something we have not experienced previously. Excuse me if my question to all of you strangers on this website was inappropriate.

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4 minutes ago, Jamaal Valentine said:

 Was this question presented to the contracting office? What did they say?

No. The RFP is not out yet and we are trying to decide whether we should approach the KO to inquire about the OCI possibility. I just happen to work for a company in one of those situations and know another company in the other situation. I'm simply trying to understand if either of us run the risk of our connection to the client being seen as a conflict. I'm not sure if this question is too basic or too complex.

Regarding scenario #1, I did a google search and found language about close relationships (spouse, parent/child) with Gov't clients being an issue. So does that mean a cousin, uncle, or other more distant relationship would be viewed as no problem?

Regarding scenario #2, this is a common situation where a company does pre-marketing with a client organization. The President has a few beers with his Navy buddy and learns everything he can about the future opportunity. Is that fair that he has privileged access because of his good friend? Would a competitor who loses to Company Y have any grounds to protest the award if they feel the personal relationship gave them an unfair advantage?

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SmBiz owner:

There are 16 years of protest decisions, opinions, and appeals from GAO, COFC and CAFC at FAR 9.500: Organizational and Consultant Conflict of Interest.  You will not find that information for free anywhere else.  If you read the excerpts only, you will have spent a day gaining a wealth of knowledge.  That is what Wifcon.com is about.  THAT is why this site exists. 

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Guest Vern Edwards
13 hours ago, SmBiz owner said:

Seriously? From my observation, the majority of posts on this website are from people trying to understand the convoluted and complex aspects of government contracting. If all of the legal / contractual questions were removed from this website, I don't think it would have a reason to exist. I thought the point was for those with less knowledge to seek guidance from those who have more insight. If we had a government contracts attorney, I wouldn't be wasting my time on this forum. As a small business, we are simply trying to understand something we have not experienced previously. Excuse me if my question to all of you strangers on this website was inappropriate

Let me quote to you from the first three sentences in the Disclaimer in the Terms of Use for this site:

Quote

This is a discussion forum. Users understand that the information provided on this forum is only for discussion purposes. It is not a source for answers to any contracting questions or problem. If you have a contracting problem and need an answer, contact a professional to assist you.

Emphasis added.

A lot of people are looking for easy answers to hard questions. You are concerned about something and would like information, advice, and, possibly, reassurance.

Well, the topic you asked about is one of the more complex in our business. I have been in this business for more than 40 years, and I would not even attempt an answer to your question: "Do either or both of these situations represent a conflict of interest that would require disclosure as part of the bidding process (assuming the future RFP includes a OCI clause)?" I would not attempt an answer even if you provided enough facts, which you didn't. There have been 457 Comptroller General (GAO) decisions in which the phrase "conflict of interest" appears in the digest. There have been 111 Court of Federal Claims decisions in which "conflict of interest" appears in a headnote.

I have participated in this forum since the very beginning, and I regret that it has become a place to which people come for answers instead of discussion. A lot of people are looking for easy answers. Free answers. Some questions have easy answers, but many don't, and as a small business owner you'd better learn to recognize the difference. As for free answers, well, you get what you pay for. If you've read a lot of posts in this forum, then you should know that as often as not some answers are misleading, half truths, or dead wrong.

No forum participant should give you advice, and so no one should give you reassurance. If all you want is information, then grab your copy of the current Federal Acquisition Regulation, go to FAR Part 3, "Improper Business Practices and Personal Conflicts of Interest," and scan the table of contents. Then go to FAR Part 9 and scan the part of the table of contents that covers Subpart 9.5, "Organizational and Consultant Conflicts of Interest." Then find out where you can get access to a periodical called, Briefing Papers, which is published by Thomson Reuters, and find the following ones:

  • Organizational Conflicts of Interest/Edition V (Dec 2012)
  • Preventing Personal Conflicts of Interest Among Contractor Employees Performing Acquisition Support Services (March 2012)
  • Postemployment Conflict-of-Interest Restrictions on Former Employees of the Executive Branch (February 2009)

Read them. Then, you have some some information. Then, you'll be ready to put your question to an attorney.

Government contracting is a complex business, and contracts with the U.S. Government are among the world's most complex business documents. You say that you don't have a Government contracts attorney. Well, if you are trying to win a Government contract and don't at least know a Government contracts attorney whom you can call, and if you can't or won't pay for their advice, then you are a very foolish small business person.

I'm a small business person, so think of what I just said as tough love.

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SmBiz:

The more appropriate section you are interested in is probably:  FAR 3.101: Standards of conduct - Government independence, bias, lack of bias.  Again, these decisions go back to 1999 and include decisions and opinions of the GAO and COFC.  Read the first GAO protest decision carefully and follow the reasoning through the list of decisions and opinions.  Even if you do hire an attorney, it will be very helpful to you if you read and understand these items.  As always, it is free information.

 

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On 2/22/2016 at 5:32 PM, SmBiz owner said:

Seriously? From my observation, the majority of posts on this website are from people trying to understand the convoluted and complex aspects of government contracting. If all of the legal / contractual questions were removed from this website, I don't think it would have a reason to exist. I thought the point was for those with less knowledge to seek guidance from those who have more insight. If we had a government contracts attorney, I wouldn't be wasting my time on this forum. As a small business, we are simply trying to understand something we have not experienced previously. Excuse me if my question to all of you strangers on this website was inappropriate.

SmBiz:  I would recommend that you read a blog post that Vern wrote several years ago entitled "Tips for Clueless Would-Be Contractors".  The link is below.  I have found this entry useful over the years and I believe you will benefit greatly not only for you both others in your company.

 

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