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Basic Ordering Agreement and Training

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#1 woops85

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 11:44 AM

My new agency allows the use of an SF-182 to procure training up to the SAT. The people procuring the training are currently NOT required to be 1102s, CORs, or have any training on Simplified Acquisitions. So that means we have lots of training bought without getting multiple quotes or looking at small business status. But we're working on fixing all of that, especially the training part. :unsure:

We're trying to establish the new way of doing business. We've thought about doing a multiple award BPA for instructor-led courses but post-award adminstration would be a nightmare. Most vendors want 15 -30 days notice of cancellation and many classes don't fill up until the last minute. It takes 2 weeks to get a requisition through our financial system (mainly due to it being new and the learning curve) to contracts, who then need 10 days to process. That means lots of potential cancellation fees.

Additionally, they still want to use the SF-182 as an ordering instrument. So I wanted to get thoughts on using Basic Ordering Agreements to establish what would be a preferred vendors list. But I don't have any experience with agreements - I'm the Program person, not an 1102. I'm thinking we could have a panel review vendor responses and the outcome would be a list of vendors whose curricula for various courses has been approved to be taught within the agency. Could have some sort of process to add new offerings/vendors as well as take people off the list if there's a quality problem (shown by course evaluations). Then training coordinators could get quotes from the folks on the list who offer the class they need and still use the SF-182 to place the order.

So thoughts?? What obstacles am I not seeing? What ways have you seen training procured that have worked well? Our agency has folks nationwide and runs about 20 classes a month in classrooms across the country. Trying to find a way to ensure quality of the training as well as the procurement process. Oh and we are very decentralized but could get an agency mandate to use a BOA or other process if one existed.

Thanks

#2 ji20874

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 02:30 PM

OPM has guidelines for buying training that agencies can adopt and implement -- in such a case, the SF-182 form is certified by training officials and supervisors instead of the contracting officer. See OPM Training Policy Handbook at http://www.opm.gov/h...ook/lrbsa12.asp.

I recommend the contracting officer stay away from the SF-182 process and leave it in the hands of training officials. If you have to teach correct principles to the training officials, do so -- and then let them govern themselves.

From the OPM website:
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Under typical . . . procedures, the Training Authorization Form (SF-182) or equivalent is authorized for use to obligate funds, contract for training, and certify payment of approved training expenses under the following conditions:

  • the training cost of a single training event, program, or instructional service does not exceed the simplified acquisition process dollar limit established by U.S. General Services Administration;

  • the cost is of a fixed nature, i.e., price per student or price per course, program, or service; and

  • the program, course, or instructional service is off-the-shelf and no modification or development resulting in increased cost to the Government is needed to meet the organization's needs.
The Training Authorization Form is also used for requesting, approving, and certifying payment for attendance at meetings, conferences, seminars, and symposia where the primary purpose is to train an employee to meet a performance improvement related need. The form is not used to purchase general supplies, training equipment, or non-training services. . . .

Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced the new SF-182 form entitled "Authorization, Agreement, and Certification of Training." The electronic SF-182 will enable OPM to maintain consistency in collecting training data and will assist Agencies in reporting training requirements.

The electronic SF-182 form can be downloaded at http://www.opm.gov/hrd/lead/index.asp or http://www.opm.gov/forms/html/sf.asp.
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#3 formerfed

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 08:53 AM

Yes. Read the OPM guidance as well as title 5 of USC 41. Your agency doesn't want to get into applying the FAR to rountine training. Do you want to require employees to write-up a sole source justification for Accounting 401 they need to take at GWU for the graduate program?

#4 Vern Edwards

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 08:59 AM

According to GAO's decision in the matter of Carroll-Donahue Assocs., B-210334, July 14, 1983, training from sources outside the government must be procured through "regular procurement procedures." According to OPM, use of SF-182 for acquisition of training valued at up to Simplified Acquisition Threshold must be negotiated between the cognizant contracting officer and the personnel office.

#5 formerfed

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 10:50 AM

Thta GAO decision makes a distinction between training from a non-Government source developed to meet a specific agency requirement (must be authorized by a CO) and training that's readily scheduled, avialble to the general public, and at rates charged to all students (done by training official).

#6 Navy_Contracting_4

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:02 PM

The reason the GAO decided that “regular procurement procedures should have been followed” in the Carroll-Donahue case was because it didn’t fall within the purview of a cited Army regulation providing for training to “be authorized and certification for reimbursement accomplished by an appropriate training official using DD Form 1556” [since replaced by the SF-182], in that it wasn’t a course “offered at a fixed price at an announced date, time and location by colleges, universities, professional associations, or groups which are open to the public.”

The Army reg also says that “[t]raining which costs less than $10,000 does not have to be submitted to a contracting officer.” Wasn’t $10,000 the SAT in 1983?

I think it’s clear from the decision that if the course had met the criteria in the Army reg, as interpreted by the GAO, then it would have been authorized, so I conclude that there is some training for which the SF-182 may be used “to obligate funds, contract for training, and certify payment,” as the OPM Handbook says. The entire scope of that authority, though, is not completely clear – witness the GAO’s admonition to the Army in the final paragraph of its decision:

“The Department of the Army may wish to consider amending [its reg] so that it will more clearly set out the intended scope of authority for approval of training by use of DD Form 1556.”

Any Army folks out there who can tell us if Section 9-33 of AR 37-107 was amended in response to this decision?

#7 Vern Edwards

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:54 PM

Retread:

Can you cite any generally applicable statute or regulation that exempts training from FAR applicability? That's the issue. I don't know of any exemption, and the OPM guidance on use of SF 182 seems to be consistent with my understanding. I'd be glad to know of any exemption. In my opinion, unless there is a statute or regulation to the contrary, all training must be procured in accordance with the FAR. As someone who sells training I wish that were not the case, but I believe that it is.

In any case, we don't know what agency whoops works for, unless I missed it. Unless he/she works for the Army, who cares what its regulation says.

#8 woops85

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:22 AM

Thanks. I don't work for the Army and my agency guidance says the training official can use the 182. But I just came from an acquisition shop and it's the lack of market research here that worries me. Vendor comes in and makes a pitch to a training official and next thing you know, the 182 is done. Don't ask for discounts; don't get copies of curriculua/lesson plans that show course objectives, topics and about how much time will be spent; don't audit a class to see if their instructors know their stuff; don't check references - if you like the sales guy, the company gets to teach. They ordered a series of FAC-P/PM courses from one company earlier this year and had to get the instructor replaced mid-class during the first course (was a Level III course and he was teaching them like first graders). Part of the reason I was hired was to get them to start using good procurement practices.

@formerfed - the training I'm referring to is the mandatory and role-based training our agency brings instructors in to present - things like appropriations law, acquisition courses, project management, leadership, supervisory, financial/budget, office applications and communications. Courses qualifying for tuition assistance are not within my purview.

But my original question remains - is it worth the time/effort to establish BOAs with training vendors to have an approved providers list? Or do I skip that and just work on improving and documenting the market research aspects of each buy?

#9 C Culham

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:40 AM

On one area you mention your effort may be duplicative of sorts of effort already accomplished for you by GSA.

Go here to save yourself some effort– Schedule 874 Training - DAU and FAI Certified DAWIA and FAC Acquisition Workforce

http://www.gsaelibra...id=34&sched=yes

#10 formerfed

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:43 AM

Vern,

I just noticed you asked that question of me.

I think training must follow the FAR. Since the SF 182 is normally limited to simplified acquisition amounts, the training official/CO has a good deal of discretion and can use procedures under FAR 13, which really helps in streamlining the process. This is particulary useful for training that's regularly scheduled, available to the public, and at rates charged to all students - courses that are scheduled with published rates including college classes.

This also gives a training offical/CO latitude in selecting sources and awarding the SF 182s. For example if the training amount exceeds the micro purchase amount, they can either seek competitive quotes or can go with a single source if it makes sense without elaborate documentation. The ordering official's knowledge of the training providers experience and performance is another key factor.

I said "I think" training needs to follow the FAR but I can't find anything saying it has to. There are some people that believe the Government Employees Training Act gives the latitude for training apart from the FAR but I don't think they are right. I can't find anything that says training is different than any other services the government needs. Most agencies use the SF 182 up to the SAP threshold but the 182 doesn't have FAR terms and conditions so those agencies might just be partially following the FAR.

What's interesting is there isn't more clear cut guidance or policy. Maybe it's not a large enough issue for the government to tackle.

#11 Vern Edwards

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:01 AM

Thanks. I don't work for the Army and my agency guidance says the training official can use the 182. But I just came from an acquisition shop and it's the lack of market research here that worries me. Vendor comes in and makes a pitch to a training official and next thing you know, the 182 is done. Don't ask for discounts; don't get copies of curriculua/lesson plans that show course objectives, topics and about how much time will be spent; don't audit a class to see if their instructors know their stuff; don't check references - if you like the sales guy, the company gets to teach. They ordered a series of FAC-P/PM courses from one company earlier this year and had to get the instructor replaced mid-class during the first course (was a Level III course and he was teaching them like first graders). Part of the reason I was hired was to get them to start using good procurement practices.

@formerfed - the training I'm referring to is the mandatory and role-based training our agency brings instructors in to present - things like appropriations law, acquisition courses, project management, leadership, supervisory, financial/budget, office applications and communications. Courses qualifying for tuition assistance are not within my purview.

But my original question remains - is it worth the time/effort to establish BOAs with training vendors to have an approved providers list? Or do I skip that and just work on improving and documenting the market research aspects of each buy?

Emphasis added.

A BOA is an unpriced advanced agreement on contract terms and pricing procedures. It is not a contract. See FAR 16.703(a). Since a BOA is not a contract, establishment of one cannot satisfy the Competition in Contracting Act. Before placing an order against a BOA you must still comply with FAR Part 6, which means either a justification for other than full and open competition or a source selection. See FAR 16.703(d)(1)(i). In order to limit orders to "an approved providers list" you must comply with the qualifications procedures in FAR Subpart 9.2. I don't see how you will save much time/effort by establishing a BOA unless you are planning to contract on a sole source basis. Maybe you meant BPA instead of BOA.

If you meant BPA, and if you meant a Part 13 BPA instead of a Subpart 8.4 BPA, then you still must obtain "maximum practicable competition" unless you are planning to go sole source. In any case, the main advantage of a BPA is avoidance of issuance of individual purchase orders and monthly invoicing instead of order-by-order invoicing. If any purchase of training exceeds $25,000 you must still synopsize and consider quotes received from non-BPA holders. I don't know how you could limit consideration to "approved providers" without first complying with FAR Subpart 9.2. So unless each purchase is worth $25,000 or less I don't see how a Part 13 BPA will save a lot of time/effort. Maybe a little. In any case, I don't see how a BPA will solve the problems you complained about in your first paragraph.

Carl Culham provided you with one solution: limit yourself to GSA schedule vendors. Of course, that won't solve the problems you mentioned in your first paragraph, either.

The best way to verify the quality of training offered by the private sector is through word of mouth reputation. The other things you mentioned -- curricula and lesson plans, course objectives and lists of topics -- are useful, but they cannot tell you much about the quality of the training, because that is mainly instructor dependent. Most instructors for government contract training classes are lawyers and former government employees. There are two issue with respect to instructor quality: (1) knowledge and (2) teaching skill.

There is almost no way to verify knowledge unless the instructor has published and has a reputation. Writing for a reputable publication puts you to the test. You have to stick your neck out and risk being wrong. It makes you careful. That's how you evaluate a university professor, on the quality of their research and thinking, based on the quality of what they have written. Most government contracting personnel write little and publish nothing during their careers. Lawyers are assumed to know what they're talking about, but that is not necessarily the case. If the attorney is a well-known practitioner you can usually feel assured of their qualifications to teach. Nothing like practice to test your knowledge. But if the lawyer is not a known practitioner, you have no way of knowing whether they know what they're talking about. I can tell you on the basis of personal knowledge that there are a lot of unqualified teachers out there. To the best of my knowledge, DAU and FAI do not approve courses on the basis of teacher qualifications. They do it based on content, which must match theirs.

Auditing a class won't do much good unless the person doing the auditing is expert and can verify and validate what is being taught. The problem is that a lot of so-called local experts think that if the instructor says something they don't agree with the instructor must be wrong. It never seems to dawn on them that they might be wrong. I had a student -- an experienced contracting person -- complain to me recently that one of my instructors was wrong about the answer to a problem. I checked, and it turns out that it was the experienced contracting person who was wrong, dead wrong, as wrong as she could possibly be. But what the instructor told her didn't comport with what she thought she knew and so she concluded (and was vehement about it) that the instructor was unqualified.

Most students evaluate courses primarily on the basis of instructor personality. "Kept me awake" is a popular form of student praise. Of course, the instructor might have kept them awake with bad information. Students are the least qualified people to evaluate the quality of the information they were given. If they were qualified they didn't need the class.

Training is tough to buy, and neither a BOA nor a BPA will solve the toughest problems in buying training.

One last comment. You wrote: "Vendor comes in and makes a pitch to a training official and next thing you know, the 182 is done."

I have been providing training for many years, and I have never seen that happen. Never. Not once. Ever. I've never even heard of it happening. I think you are exaggerating.

#12 C Culham

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:36 AM

As noted in the FSS Category 874 8 link I provided the firms are "certified" by DAU (which by implication includes FAI). In a check with applicable references on the DAU website (see link below) the listing of available contractors on 874 8 is not inclusive of all contractors that DAU has certified for course equivalency but does include many. I note this in that while I agree to a point with Vern Edward's general view stated above regarding instructors using a DAU certified contractor from either FSS 874 8 or via other means would provide a leg up in getting a quality instructor. I suspect strongly from my experience that continued certification of a specific course/contractor is highly dependent on all aspects of the training including quality of instructor.

Further with regard to Vern Edward’s reference to FAR 9.2 I believe you could get “approved providers” without the effort indicated in 9.2. This could be accomplished by an evaluation factor and direct stipulation of the proposed procurement terms and conditions. No different for example than demanding that a laboratory meet certain accreditation standards. Example - here is how GSA has done it for FSS 874 8 (emphasis added) –

"874 8 --- DAU and FAI Certified DAWIA and FAC Acquisition Workforce
Training for GS-1102 and non-1102 Personnel
Training for Acquisition Workforce (GS-1102 and non-GS-1102): In accordance with the
Office of Federal Procurement Policy s (OFPP) Policy Letter 05-01, training courses SHALL BE CERTIFICED BY THE DEFENSE ACQUISITION UNIVERSITY and comply with the Federal
Acquisition Institute s (FAI) policy, and based on the Defense Acquisition Workforce
Improvement Act s (DAWIA) and the Federal Acquisition Certification (FAC) requirements
for certification at the junior, intermediate, and senior levels to reflect the need to meet
increasingly more rigorous standards for education, training, and experience. This shall apply
to all Contracting Officers (CO) regardless of general schedule series with authority to
obligate funds above the micropurchase threshold; all positions in the general schedule
purchasing series (GS-1105); program and project managers (FAC-PM), as identified by the
agency s Chief Acquisition Officer (CAO), or equivalent; all Contracting Officer s
Representatives (CORs) and Contracting Officer s Technical Representatives (COTRs), or
equivalent (FAC-COTR); all Emergency Response and Recovery Contracting Personnel; and
significant acquisition-related positions identified by the CAO, or equivalent, using the
guidance provided in OFPP Policy Letter 05-01.
NOTE: NAICS: 611430
Offerors Shall Provide the Following:
A COPY OF THE COURSE EQUIVALENCY CERTIFICATION ISSUED BY DAU for each course offered.
Resumes of all current instructors.
Instructors must be Clinger-Cohen compliant.
Provide a detail training plan evidencing how instructors are kept up to date and conversant
with federal acquisition regulations on a continuous basis.
References: Last 3 customers"

From my direct experience in working with 1102’s and 1105’s attempting to get FAI FAC-C certification and others attempting to get FAC-COR certification under OFPP’s standards in 2006 it is imperative that non-government training give strong consideration to use of DAU certified courses/contractors. I have had the experience where many 1102/1105’s, and those seeking FAC- COR certification have been very frustrated or flatly denied FAI certification for failure to use firms that are certified. I would note that I believe the same applies to FAC-P/PM but I have no direct experience.

DAU Website link to approved non-government providers –
https://myclass.dau....ial Vendors.pdf


#13 Vern Edwards

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:42 AM

DAU accepts courses from commercial vendors as equivalents to DAU courses on the basis of course content and company policies. It accredits only for equivalency with specific DAU course, so it does not accredit for continuous learning courses.

If a vendor's course content matches DAU course content and the company has adopted certain policies, the vendor's course will be accepted as an equivalent. That is not difficult to accomplish, except for a lot of paperwork, since DAU's course materials are available on line. If a vendor wants to sell an equivalent to CON 170 or whatever, all it has to do is use DAU's materials, read up on and adopt certain policies, and require attendance for the same number of hours.

DAU does not audit courses or evaluate instructors working for commercial vendors as part of its equivalency assessment. Commercial instructors sometimes bone up on a course a week ahead of time, or maybe just a weekend. It's called being a day ahead of the students. Most commercial vendors value teaching ability more highly than expertise, although they will not admit that publicly. That's because most attendees rate a course primarily on the basis of the personality and presentation skills of the instructor and word of mouth is worth its weight in gold. Students are in a poor position to evaluate course content, except for topicality.

DAU has delegated to the services and component commands the authority to validate course equivalency on a case-by-case basis. It's a local decision. It's equivalency program is essentially designed to help vendors market their products. DAU needs their help, because it does not have the resources to train everyone who needs to be trained.

Having said all of that, if all you want to do is earn equivalency credits, I agree with Carl that the GSA schedule and accredited vendors is the way to go. If, on the other hand, you really want to learn something, you have a much more difficult source selection problem. I'll be frank, despite 30 years experience teaching contracting courses, even when I was still a government employee, I have never figured out how to assess the quality of a course except on the basis of the qualifications of the instructor. And I know of only three ways to assess the quality of an instructor: (1) on the basis of reports from reliable colleagues based on their personal experience, (2) on the basis of my own personal experience, and (3) on the basis of what the person has written.

#14 woops85

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 07:45 AM

Thanks All. The majority of vendors they use now are on Schedule 874 (old 69).

We've looked at doing a BPA, but the overhead associated with it doesn't make economic sense. We have training locations across the country and a whole variety of subjects. So we could establish (a) multiple single-award BPAs that cover a particular range of classes presented anywhere; ( b ) multiple BPAs with a regional focus (which BPA you use is based on where the class is presented); or © multiple award BPAs that require competition for each order. But the real problem comes in post-award. If we have a BPA, we have a CO involved in each order (I can't use an SF-182 as ordering instrument because of way finance and contracting systems interact - or don't interact). Our acquisition shop wants 10-20 days to complete a commodities delivery order, even sole source, That includes de-obligations and cancellations if a class got cancelled. We run about 20 classes a month and each class could be a separate order (yes, good planning would mean we could order as a group but we need to collect tuition so we can pay the vendor as we don't get a centrally funding training budget).

Thanks for comments on the BOA. Looks like I'll concentrate my efforts on good market research and procurement practices since the majority of the buys are above micro-purchase (about $15-20K)





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