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Posts posted by Cajuncharlie

  1. Unfortunately many of us must operate in an imperfect world and work on a practical basis. When one looks at a question and answer and firmly believes, with sound precedent and confirmed by advice of competent counsel, that no change to the RFP is involved, but loses in a mini-trial anyway, in the future one does what one must to protect oneself and one's client, regardless of unwarranted accusations of laziness, unsound thinking, and poor practice. It would be more useful to describe a path out of such a quandary than throw rocks from an ivory tower that is far removed from the real world in the trenches.

  2. I have seen a prime contractor burned by its own "entire agreement" clause and the parol evidence rule after trying to hold a subcontractor to Q&A that were not incorporated by amendment. The prime had good reason to believe that the areas covered by the Q&A were quite clear in the solicitation and did not constitute a change. ADR resulted in a different conclusion, contrary to the prime's well-researched precedent and reasonable expectations. Since then I have avoided that kind of problem by making Q&A part of Section J.

    This sort of thing makes me glad again to be on the contractor side where, within the broad confines of our purchasing system, we are free and indeed expected to use best practices based on lessons learned, rather than constrained by overly restrictive guidance. Why leave something open to misinterpretation, even when it does not constitute a change, when it can be easily be nailed down by well-considered answers made a formal part of the solicitation and resulting contract?

  3. I for one took a big hit early in my career for buying Olivetti typewriters when the requester asked for IBM Selectric without justification. Would I do it again? Probably, but first I would let the end user know where it was headed and what might be done to change the outcome, such as going over my head.

  4. I have felt this pain often, although not in the space technology industry. The way the cycle goes is you win a contract based on your belief that you can work smarter and leaner than the incumbent, you get mobilized and settled in, you think you're doing OK, then you realize your margins are nowhere near where they need to be, but you tough it out, do the best job you can for the client with the resources you have, you work the numbers for the re-compete, and you lose to somebody who believes he can work smarter and leaner...

    The only fix I have seen for an incumbent is to put heavy spin doctoration into your re-compete proposal, avoid reliance solely on your numbers, and make sure your proposal stresses all the times you have exceeded customer expectations, includes all the testimonials you can gather, and shamelessly toots your horn in an attention-grabbing, almost a comic book style, format that emphasizes your discriminators and is easy for the busiest source selection people to digest.

  5. The best answer would be whatever the person in charge, or your two GS-14s, have observed as areas needing attention.

    From an outside perspective, however, not knowing your mission or people, I would suggest going back to basics, starting with the two fundamental things every file should be clear on, regardless of whether you're in the Government or purely private sector: Why did you pick this source, and why is the price OK?

    Source selection and price reasonableness can have many facets and nuances, and your in-house training can focus on whichever aspects meet your needs.

  6. DC, please bear in mind that the OP was about a non-competitive sole source proposal. In that situation, there is a big difference between a contractor's view of what is logical and sensible, and compliant. See the compliance requirement in post # 12 above.

    For competitive proposals, you would usually not owe the Government a proposal formatted IAW Table 15-2, and therefore not owe them the statement of conformity with FAR 15.403( b )( 1 ), so as a general rule you would be good to go with your logical and sensible approach.

  7. One of the concerns with this topic is imprecise language, and "value engineering" is something that has a specific meaning in U.S. Government contracting that few people in the wider world of contractors and contracting recognize. The vast majority of contractors take "value engineering" as simply working to find a more cost-effective way to accomplish the goal.

    "The contractor had requested approval to do some value engineering..." appears to use the general sense of the term rather than the narrower FAR sense, in view of "... since a contract was never issued...".

    On the other hand, as noted above, the CDA covers implied contracts, which could be the case depending on the specific wording of "The contractor had requested approval to do some value engineering, which we agreed to...".

  8. In this situation, with concurrence from my boss, my first steps would be, within the Government to process a ratification for every unauthorized procurement; and with the vendor to return every invoice in excess of the amount on the delivery order with a note that this is the reason the invoice is returned without action. Both tracks would play out from there. Regardless of outcome, the ordering offices would have strong motivation to clean up their act, and the vendor(s) would think twice about exceeding the funded amount on a delivery order.

  9. Maybe it's just me, but the replies so far seem to have missed the obvious. I would look to the written record of official correspondence between prime and sub. Is there an executed subcontract for the work? Has the prime issued the sub an NTP or otherwise turned the sub on in writing to begin performance? If so, the prime is responsible for paying the sub in accordance with the subcontract until such time as the prime tells the sub to stop work in accordance with the subcontract. If not, this is all moot.

  10. In preparation for another visit to Thailand next month, I have been not only following the news closely, but also re-reading my collection of fiction set in Thailand, by such authors as Christopher G. Moore, Jason Schoonover, Timothy Hallinan, Guy Lilburn, et al. In between, it's been historical adventure in colonial times from Wilbur Smith, the latest from Clive Cussler with a co-author, and the newest from Steven Berry. Most of my recreational reading is purely recreational and includes very little non-fiction, and I go through a couple of novels a week on average.

    I'm also a fan of classic science fiction. In high school, walking from school to the bus stop, it was a toss-up whether to stop at the drug store for a banana split, or the bookstore for a forty cent sci-fi paperback. Nowadays the stuff is inexpensive in digital form.

  11. While I agree that the question lacked sufficient context for a precise answer, I will chime in with some general observations based on over 20 years' contracts experience overseas, most of it in the Middle East, including my current job.

    In my experience the $1,000 per employee tax allowance is not customary, and imho is not a cost that a reasonable and prudent business person would incur. Companies operating in the Middle East typically leave employees on their own for taxes, and will not offer employees any advice at all, other than to make sure you obey the law. I would definitely question this cost and challenge the contractor to support it with documentation, preferably sufficient to demonstrate that it is usual and customary in Bahrain, or at least consistent with the contractor's policies, procedures, and practices -- not just for this project -- that apply worldwide to a meaningful number of other projects.

    A transportation allowance of BHD 150 per month may be OK, but I haven't been to Bahrain in quite some time, and what is reasonable would depend on many factors such as distance between residence and workplace, etc. Regarding the etc., bear in mind that personal transportation for normal domestic purposes has generally been recognized as an allowable cost in the Middle East, so shopping, restaurants, entertainment, etc. would be allowable destinations. In other Middle East countries, a vehicle is often provided to employees, so this allowance might be considered in lieu of a company owned or leased vehicle. A Taurus leases for the equivalent of BHD 419 per month in Riyadh. Often with such allowances, employees get very creative at finding ways to cut their own costs and pocket as much of the allowance as possible, defeating the purpose of the allowance. Again, I would question the cost and require the contractor to support it in sufficient detail to convince a potentially hostile auditor that the amount is consistent with the local market, the benefit is consistent with local practices, and the cost of administering receipted expenses outweighs the advantage of limiting compensation for transportation to reimbursement of documented actual costs.

    Do you have access to an employee benefits survey report for the region, such as the one compiled by Towers Watson? If not, you could suggest to the contractor that something like this might support their questioned costs.

    Edited to add an actual lease cost. Edited again to note the actual lease cost was for only 9 months, dropping each year thereafter.

  12. Retreadfed, here, here! I thought I was something of a renegade for believing that the only pieces of the FAR that I, as a contractor, had to comply with, were the pieces within the four corners of the solicitation I was bidding or the contract I signed. Glad to see I'm not alone. My philosophy is that the Government should be happy for contractors to use best commercial practices and FAR principles, allowing them to perform more efficiently than the Government can.

    I also recognize that Government expectations include contractor compliance with the whole FAR. including Part 15. What contractors actually must comply with are the contractors' own purchasing policies and procedures. In my admittedly limited but lengthy experience, it's hard to get purchasing system approval without including more of the FAR than contractors ought to, imho. Many contractors seem to accede to DCAA pressure and include more and more of the FAR in their policies and procedures, until contractors are almost as hamstrung as the Government in their procurement processes. And here I thought one of the reasons they hired us contractors was because we can perform more efficiently -- silly me.

    The trend to require contractors to comply with the whole FAR and DFARS has been formalized in DFARS 252.244-7001, "Contractor Purchasing System Administration," whose paragraph ( c ) begins, "System criteria. The Contractor's purchasing system shall -- (1) Have an adequate system description including policies, procedures, and purchasing practices that comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS); ..." (Bold added) How in the world did that ever get published? Will it ever be literally and fully implemented? Can it be?

    Again, not every contract contains this clause, but it clearly indicates the Government's attitude and expectations.

    In looking back at Retread's question, I thought this topic was about a prime and the Government, not about a sub and a prime. Did I miss something? Wouldn't be the first time.

    To get back to the topic at hand, as a contractor you can antagonize the Government by arguing and risk getting the kind of treatment that Vern described, or at worst losing the work, or at best delaying the approval until you give the Government what it wants; or you can cooperate by providing all the supporting documentation that the Government wants. In previous incarnations I have had similar differences of opinion with our estimators, and have always taken the attitude of making our initial submittal as easy as possible for the Government to digest and approve, and then providing whatever further backup is requested. The estimators eventually came around. It avoids a lot of friction, costs less in the long run, and makes for better customer relations, which is important for future business.

    I believe contractors should pick their battles with the Government, and know how to disagree without being disagreeable. Maintaining a level of business courtesy and practicing good manners is important. At the end of a contract, not only do I want to perform well and make my financial goals; and even if there were some tough issues we had to work through, I also want to be the kind of contractor that leaves the client with a favorable impression.

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