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All,

As I have stated earlier, I am in a contingency operation (Afghanistan). I would like your thoughts on a common practice that is done here. Our requirement pacakges come in with 3 local quotes (Resource Management mandates the 3 quotes for IGE purposes). Some KOs look at the 3 quotes, have each contract confirm their price, and then award to the low offeror (C3 mandates LPTA). They do not provide a CLIN structure, PWS, etc.The KO states this is an acceptable process under 13.106-1© as an oral solicitation (as long as it is under the SAT which is 1M here). I have grave reservations on awarding in this matter, as the customer who obtains these 3 quotes regualarly go to high contractors (in order to obtain more funds), etc. However, with that said, I have never used this process and am unfamiliar with the process. Based on the scenario I have described, is this an authorized way to solicit (I realize oral solicitations are authorized but is the process in which they orally solicited correct)?

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Guest Vern Edwards

The procedure is authorized in the sense that nothing in FAR prohibits it. FAR does not require that the CO personally obtain quotes. There is no prohibition against a CO delegating that responsibility to requisitioners. Whether that is wise is another matter. The best way to look at this is that the CO must determine whether the price is fair and reasonable. That's his or her personal responsibility and he or she signs the purchase order. That being said, the CO must decide whether the customer has done a good job of soliciting quotes. You say you have doubts about that, so.... Is it physically possible for COs to get quotes. Can they do it over the telephone where you are? Would they have to go out into the field. What would be the costs and risks?

I would be concerned about requisitioners obtaining quotes without providing quoters with a statement of work. That could lead to claims and disputes if the quoter says it was misinformed when asked for a quote. And the suggestion that the requisitioners are deliberately seeking high quotes in order to pad their funding sounds serious. Have those issues been discussed in your office? If there is evidence of the latter issue, then someone should do something about it.

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Vern,

Thanks for your input. In regards to the inflating of prices, for funding purposes, most KO's just utilize the 3 quotes as market research, and then competitively solicit for quotes (which results in a cheaper price).

KOs do have the ability to call/email for quotes via a standard solicitation (wither 1449 or paper combined synopsis/solicitation). The argument here is to skip the step of preparing the solicitation, and just utilize the quotes we already have in order to save time. It just took me be surprise as I have never not solicited (as in provided provisions/clauses, etc), and to me, confirming the low quote isn?t even orally soliciting. But if nothing prohibits from not soliciting then I guess I can argue against the practice.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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  • 3 weeks later...

.

The current system has evolved over a long time, adapting to each new type of fraudulent activity that creative people can think up.

Internal controls depend on a separation of duties:

*** one person develops the statement of what it is that must be acquired;

*** another person certifies that funds are available, and commits them;

*** yet another person makes the actual purchase;

*** someone else (maybe the original requisitioner) certifies receipt.

Having seen the depths of depravity and corruption in JCC-I, the predecessor organization to where you are now, Ashley, I cannot recommend that you or your coworkers simply make your buy from one of the three "quotes" that the requiring activity sends you.

In your original question you yourself indicate at least a suspicion of corruption (that's the technical term for "the customer who obtains these 3 quotes regularly go to high contractors (in order to obtain more funds) ..."

To help you decide how much of your authority and reputation you should leave in the hands of people you suspect are corrupt, I suggest that you go read some of the write-ups of JCC-I.

ps: how can you even consider these "quotes" to be a basis for anything, even mere "market research," if they are not tied to a specific requirement ? Do you suspect that the requiring activity is describing the requirement differently to the Quoters than they are describing it to you ? If they are also the ones doing acceptance, I would guess that the actual requirement being performed includes stuff that you never contemplated.

.

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After working in Southwest Asia more than 25 years for U.S. Government prime contractors and first tier subs, often in contingency environments, I have to add a big ?amen? to the comments from Vern and Brian.

I cannot tell you how many times people have brought me or my buyers three quotes, on nice letterhead but of dubious origin, without a biddable scope or work statement, and expected an immediate purchase order to support a critical mission.

Only you can decide the balance between how much time you are willing to spend to satisfy yourself as to the propriety of a course of action, and how much credence you give to the work of others in the interest of maintaining a high production rate and meeting customer expectations for timely mission support.

Always remember what Hilary Swank?s character in Million Dollar Baby forgot, the last thing a referee tells boxers before they come out fighting, ?Protect yourself in the ring at all times.?

Some practical areas as food for thought:

First, document your file with the basis of your decisions, maybe a summary of the documentation that formed the basis of your award decision, and especially any information or guidance given to you verbally so it would not otherwise be in the file unless you write it down and put it there. This does not have to be a time-consuming exercise, and ideally would not be canned or copied-and-pasted, but would be a brief note that?s unique to each buy. You may already have a form for this. Don?t pencil-whip it. Take a minute to write something so you would not mind your mother reading your file, or seeing it on 60 Minutes.

Second, if these quotes are coming from a pre-bid site visit or job walk, which seems likely if you do not have a well-defined scope or work statement, let your internal customers know that you need to know about these job walks in advance, and they need to accommodate any additional potential bidders that you want to solicit. Explain to them that rotating qualified bidders complies with FAR 13.14( a)(1) ,helps avoid the appearance of impropriety, and reduces the amount of scrutiny they can expect. I recall telling a prime contractor customer?s engineer in a meeting that it doesn?t take any longer to send an invitation to a job walk to three bidders than to one bidder, and being supported by the client?s subcontracts manager while getting a dirty look from the engineer. Guess how we did those from then on.

Third, talk to your superiors and colleagues about these concerns and ways to beef up the support in your files with a minimum of additional time and effort.

Fourth, to expand on Brian?s sermon on internal controls, be aware of those things and try to move your processes in that direction. On one military support deployment, we did not mobilize many U.S. contractor personnel, but we made sure we had one person sign as requisitioner; another sign funds availability; another sign overall approval of the req; another sign the PO; a completely separate receiving section; a separate review of invoices to include matching with req, PO, and receiver; and a separate business management review and signature cycle for payment requests, whether cash or check. Petty cash and checking account records were audited at least monthly. We did not have enough people to have different individuals sign each of these steps, but we developed a process that required several signatures for each step, using as many checks and balances as we could, to keep us all safe and avoid the appearance of ?cornflakes? of interest. You may not be in position to influence how these things happen where you are, but again, it?s food for thought.

It is interesting to work in a place, even as a contractor, where your personal protective equipment is more than a hard had, steel-toed boots, and a bright reflective vest, instead having a helmet, level 3 body armor with level 4 ceramic chicken plates, a web vest with ammunition pockets, a side-arm, a long gun, spare mags, and a radio and sat phone. Stay safe out there.

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