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Gen7

Contracting Officer Misconduct

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I am working on a research project on federal contracting officers and have had some trouble getting a clear answer. Specifically, I am looking for what can be done when a contracting officer abuses his/her authority (ex: extreme bias against the contractor, discrimination, etc). The officers seem to have a lot of authority so what options does a business have? Who do these officers answer to and is there anything the contractors can do to get them to quickly follow the law. Also, is it possible to FOIA their emails for code violations, collusion with other bidders, evidence of discrimination, etc?

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Google "Quimba Software" and see what you get at both the CoFC and ASBCA. The company also used to have a website, not sure if that's still around.

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4 hours ago, Gen7 said:

I am working on a research project on federal contracting officers and have had some trouble getting a clear answer. Specifically, I am looking for what can be done when a contracting officer abuses his/her authority (ex: extreme bias against the contractor, discrimination, etc). The officers seem to have a lot of authority so what options does a business have? Who do these officers answer to and is there anything the contractors can do to get them to quickly follow the law. Also, is it possible to FOIA their emails for code violations, collusion with other bidders, evidence of discrimination, etc?

Since you say, "the contractor," I assume that you are talking about problems under contract, and not about problems associated with competing for a contract. Is that correct?

If so, then the first question is whether the abuse of authority (bias, discrimination, etc.) is a breach of contract or just rudeness? If the contractor thinks the CO has breached the contract it should consult an attorney in order to determine whether there has been a breach, whether to submit a claim, and what remedies are available.

In my opinion, a FOIA request would be of little use, since the kinds of communications that you would be concerned about would probably be exempt from release and would in any event be a long time coming. Discovery is what you would want.

If you are looking for a way to get the CO personally sanctioned, I think there is little likelihood of that unless you can show that the CO has broken the law.

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I appreciate the feedback. And yes, I am talking about problems arising with the Contracting Officer under the contract. I know the FAR briefly mentions that contracting officers must ensure contractors receive fair, impartial, and equitable treatment (Subpart 1.602-2(b)) so could there be consequences for not following this section of the FAR? 

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In my experience and opinion, and as a practical matter--no, unless you could persuade a board of contract appeals or a court that the CO breached the contract or you could convince the CO's superiors that he or she had violated some criminal statute.

Now, again, see a lawyer. You're asking for free legal advice, which I'm not giving, but which, if I did, would be worth what you paid for it.

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Ah ok, as I mentioned this is merely a research project so I was just hoping to see if anyone had dealt with this sort of issue before. Thanks for the insight!

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It depends on the Agency and how it is orgainized.  In my agency, we have Branch Chiefs and Division Directors above the COs.   Contractors can appeal to them and they do with some frequency.  We also have an ombudsman assigned by clause to all IDIQ contracts to ensure fair opportunity.   If the management thinks a contractor is being wronged, they will talk to the CO involved to try and improve the situation or if they believe the CO to be right they will explain to the contractor why we believe what we are doing is proper.  All past performance reports through CPARS must go to the contractor for comment, and if they disagree with the report, they can refute the report and request a review.  All our reviews are by a Division Director. We have reassigned contracts in some cases where it is obvious the CO is having personality conflicts with the contractor's representatives. 

I have seen the complaints about not being able to do anything about a particular CO but my immediate thought is "everyone has a supervisor somewhere".  If all fails, file a breach of contract as stated earlier. 

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