Order banning federal contractor LGBT workplace discrimination goes into effect

April 17, 2015 by

An executive order banning federal contractors from workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers went into effect April 8, 2015.

The order prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in federal employment, and prohibits all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees, says an Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) statement.

“Citizens expect contracting professionals to provide these services on a superior scale while serving as responsible business models with respect to 21st century workplace equality,” says OFPP Administrator Anne Rung in the statement.

Though the order acts as a blanket safeguard, of the largest 50 federal contractors, which represent nearly half of all federal contracting dollars, 86 percent already prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and 61 percent prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/order-banning-federal-contractor-lgbt-workplace-discrimination-goes-effect/2015-04-08

Read OFPP’s blog posting at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/04/08/another-step-toward-more-inclusive-contracting-workforce

Pentagon strives for even better buying power

April 16, 2015 by

The Defense Department (DoD) on Thursday, April 9 released the third update of its Better Buying Power acquisition strategy in five years, aiming to preserve U.S. technological superiority by protecting budgets for long-term research and development while enhancing cybersecurity.

“We want to identify the weapons, in the systems in the force today, that we can use in more innovative ways, and we’re looking for these promising technologies that we can pull forward,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told a Pentagon press conference Thursday. The goal is to reverse “a steady erosion of our technological superiority that we have relied upon for so long in all of our defense strategies.”

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, in releasing a memo to top management outlining Better Buying Power 3.0, said that flat budgets and sequestration have required the department to raid modernization dollars to pay for readiness. “Our technological superiority is dependent on the effectiveness of our research and development efforts that span science and technology, component development, early prototyping, full-scale development, and technology insertion into fielded products,” Kendall wrote.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2015/04/pentagon-strives-even-better-buying-power/109900

GA-based construction firm to pay $1 million to settle alleged DBE-related False Claims violations

April 15, 2015 by

C.W. Matthews Contracting Company (C.W. Matthews), a Marietta, GA-based construction firm, has agreed to pay $1 million dollars to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act almost eight years ago by submitting false and misleading certifications to the Government regarding: 1) work performed on several federally funded highway construction projects; as well as 2) the company’s compliance with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (DBE Program).

The agreement was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia on Monday, April 13, 2015.

Additionally, C.W. Matthews has reached a separate settlement with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, pursuant to which the company has agreed to: 1) adopt an ethics code and a corporate compliance program; 2) appoint a compliance officer; and 3) retain an independent monitor to assess its performance.

“To receive the tangible and intangible benefits that it contracts for, the United States expects companies that actively seek and obtain federally funded contracts to be diligent and forthright in fulfilling their contractual obligations to the Government,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn.

The settlement concerns false certifications that C.W. Matthews provided the Government regarding its compliance with requirements associated with the DBE Program.  Pursuant to the DBE Program, federally funded construction contracts contain DBE clauses, which require that a specified percentage of the work be sub-contracted to firms meeting the statutory definition of a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).

As a precondition to bidding, a contractor must acknowledge the project’s DBE goals, and then identify the DBE that it proposes to subcontract with if awarded the contract.  Additionally, DBE regulations (49 C.F.R. § 26.55require “real and substantial” work performed by a “viable” and “independent” DBE firm, and state that “there cannot be a contrived arrangement for the purpose of meeting DBE goals.”  The DBE Program is intended to ensure that DBEs are able to compete for federal construction contracts.

Between 2006 and 2007, C.W. Matthews was awarded several highway construction contracts that contained DBE clauses.  In bidding on the contracts, C.W. Matthews promised to subcontract with a DBE firm called Longoria Trucking (Longoria) to satisfy the contracts’ DBE goals.  As work progressed, C.W. Matthews submitted the requisite DBE Reports to the Government, which: 1) described work Longoria had purportedly performed; and 2) quantified the monetary amounts purportedly paid to Longoria.

The Government’s investigation revealed that the DBE reports submitted by C.W. Matthews were false and misleading as, in truth, it was a non-DBE trucking firm called G.E. Robinson – not Longoria – that performed most of the work, and received most of the payments, described in the reports.  Indeed, the investigation revealed that G.E. Robinson used Longoria as a “front” to obtain, and receive payment under, the applicable contracts.  As a non-DBE firm, G.E. Robinson was ineligible to even bid on these subcontracts.  To circumvent this restriction, G.E. Robinson assumed the identify of, and controlled, Longoria, which did little work and was paid a small fee by G.E. Robinson for its complicity.

The investigation revealed C.W. Matthews either knew, or should have known, of the scheme between Longoria and G.E. Robinson.  However, despite this knowledge, C.W. Matthews continued issuing false and misleading certifications to the Government regarding Longoria’s role in the applicable highway projects.

In certifying that Longoria was performing work under the contracts, despite clear signs that the work was actually being performed by G.E. Robinson, C.W. Matthews, at minimum, was either reckless or deliberately indifferent.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/press/2015/04-13-15.html

Contractors could get new rules for handling sensitive government data

April 14, 2015 by

Private sector government contractors may soon be subjected to new rules for managing sensitive federal information.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently published draft requirements for federal and nonfederal groups with access to “controlled unclassified information” — a subset of confidential information that, while not classified, must still be protected. The Commerce Department agency is accepting public comments on the draft until May 12, 2015.

These requirements are meant to supplement rules under the Federal Information Security Management Act, which governs how federal agencies (and contractors, on their behalf) manage their own data in their own information systems, according to NIST fellow Ron Ross.

The new guidance aims to cover situations not explicitly mentioned in FISMA — for instance, when state and local governments, colleges and universities, or private organizations happen to receive federal CUI data through a contract or an agreement.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/big-data/2015/04/nist-refining-rules-non-federal-groups-handling-federal-data/109399

GSA ‘turns the lights on’ at Acquisition.gov

April 13, 2015 by

Web designers will tell you that it’s important for a website to look like someone lives there, that it’s not a smattering of links and pages that look as if no one is home. Well, here at GSA we have turned the lights on at acquisition.gov.

Since September, GSA has been working to transform acquisition.gov into a more comprehensive, user-friendly hub for contracting officers (COs), one that allows them to electronically search past and present versions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation  (FAR) and GSA Acquisition Manual (GSAM), and stay-up-to-date on the latest developments in federal acquisition.  In addition, the new website organizes other acquisition resources (i.e. Supplemental Regulations, Acquisition Systems, Training) into clear, comprehensive categories – providing easy access to the resources that COs use most often.

Acquisition.gov photo

The General Services Administration (GSA) re-launched the Acquisition.gov website on April 13, 2015.

 

Are you looking for every instance of the phrase “collective bargaining” in the FAR or GSAM? Just type those words in the search engine and you’ll get just that. Do you want to know what Part 25, Subpart 10, Section 8, and Subsection 2 said in 1996? No problem. Search the “Archives” by “FAC Number” (Federal Acquisition Circular) and “Effective Date.” Do you want to know about the latest change in federal acquisition? Check out the website’s snazzy new rotating feature block, multimedia library, and “News and Announcements” section.

Acquisition.gov Transformation At A Glance:

Improved Searchability  

  • FAR/GSAM Current —  COs can now search the most current version of the FAR and GSAM using keywords and an electronic table of contents. To learn more about how to search the current version of the FAR, see the media section on the home page.
  • FAR/GSAM Archives — COs can now search past versions of the FAR and GSAM by “FAC Number” and “Effective Date.” The archives go back to 1996.

To learn more about how to search past versions of the FAR, see the media section on the home page.

Real-Time Updates  

  • News and Announcements — Includes the latest press releases and blogs about federal acquisition.
  • Rotating Feature Block — Features recent changes to the FAR.
  • Multimedia Library — Includes instructional videos, speeches, and other public commentary from leaders in federal acquisition.

Additional Resources

  • Supplemental Regulations — Includes links to supplemental federal regulations for all agencies.
  • Training — Features links to training and continuous learning institutes, as well as professional organizations connected to the federal acquisition process.
  • Acquisition Systems — Includes links to other frequently-used acquisition resources like FedBizOps and the Federal Procurement Data System.

Check out the acquisition.gov transformation here. If you have questions about the transition or suggestions on how to further transform the site, email vog.asgnull@nimdametsys.vog_noitisiuqca.

Source: http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2015/04/13/gsa-turns-the-lights-on-at-acquisition-gov/

Refreshed USASpending website irks some transparency advocates

April 13, 2015 by

The work-in-progress known as government transparency took a new twist on April 1 when the Treasury Department unveiled “improvements” to the USAspending.gov website aimed at providing easy public access to data on federal contracts, grants and financial assistance governmentwide.

David Lebryk, Treasury’s fiscal assistant secretary, in a blog post described the change — done in response to external feedback– as improving “navigation to allow users to more directly summarize spending data” and to take advantage of a platform borrowed from the award-winning Recovery.gov website used to track spending on the 2009 stimulus legislation.

The refreshed website is supposed to be easier to navigate and understand (it uses plain language instead of government jargon); provide interactive mapping of prime recipients’ localities and enhanced agency and state financial data summaries; connect subcontract award data to prime awards; and expand search capabilities for simplified titles.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/04/refreshed-usaspending-website-irks-some-transparency-advocates/109258/

SDVOSB Verification Contractor eliminated for ‘organizational conflict of interest’

April 10, 2015 by

An incumbent contractor performing VA CVE SDVOSB verification functions was ineligible to be be re-awarded an order for those services because of an unmitigated organizational conflict of interest.

In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims upheld the VA’s decision to cancel the award to the incumbent contractor and exclude that contractor from the follow-on order.

The Court’s decision in Monterey Consultants, Inc. v. United States, No. 14-1164C (2015) involved a VA RFQ for CVE support functions.  Those functions included supporting the CVE’s SDVOSB and VOSB verification processing.

The verification functions in question had been performed by Monterey Consultants, Inc. under a VA BPA.  Under its BPA, Monterey did work under a variety of call orders, including processing and verification services for CVE.  Monterey also provided support for the VA OSDBU’s acquisition efforts.

The RFQ included a specific section covering OCIs.  In relevant part, that section stated that “Contractors performing on other contracts in support of Verification shall be presumed to have an OCI with respect to this contract and are ineligible to quote on this requirement, due to the integrated nature of work perform[ed] under this solicitation and existing contracts.”

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/u-s-court-of-federal-claims/va-cve-sdvosb-verification-contractor-eliminated-for-oci/

‘National dialogue’ called for on contract reporting costs

April 9, 2015 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are facilitating a ‘national dialogue’ to discuss ideas on how to reduce the costs associated with reporting compliance under Federal awards, including contracts, subcontracts, grants, subgrants, and cooperative agreements.

The GSA/HHS notice is posted at: 80 Fed. Reg. 17438.

The dialogue is part of an effort to improve the economy and efficiency of the federal award system by identifying impactful steps that can be used to streamline reporting, reduce burden, and reduce costs.

Interested parties may participate in the national dialogue through an online platform by reviewing the information and participation dates posted at www.cao.gov.  The dialogue will open on May 30, 2015 and close on May 30, 2017.

GAO: Small business FedBid suspension was improper

April 8, 2015 by

The suspension of a small business’s FedBid account was improper because the matter was not referred to the SBA under the SBA’s certificate of competency procedures.

In an important decision for small businesses participating in reverse auctions, the GAO recently held that FedBid could not properly suspend a small business’s user account for a supposed lack of “business integrity,” thereby causing the small business to be ineligible to bid on a federal solicitation, without a referral to the SBA.

The GAO’s decision in Latvian Connection, LLC, B-410947 (Mar. 31, 2015) involved a Department of State solicitation for first aid kits and related medical supplies.  DOS conducted the solicitation as a reverse auction on FedBed.  The solicitation was set aside for small businesses.

Latvian Connection, LLC, wished to compete for the award.  However, in July 2014, FedBid suspended Latvian Connection’s FedBid user account.  The FedBid suspension notice stated, in part: “System and Business Integrity: Latvian Connection has taken actions to repeatedly and purposely interfere with FedBid’s business relationships.”

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/gaobidprotests/small-businesss-fedbid-suspension-was-improper-says-gao/

Case closed: Court denies protest over VA contract to verify veteran small businesses

April 7, 2015 by

Veteran community, rejoice: It appears the legal wrangling about who should support the Department of Veterans Affairs program to verify veteran-owned small businesses is over.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied a protest from Monterey Consultants Inc. claiming the VA improperly revoked its contract to manage the Center for Veterans Enterprise in November.

The VA instead awarded the work to another company, Loch Harbour Group in Alexandria after Loch Harbour filed a protest, saying Monterey had a conflict of interest because it had access to documents from other VA work that helped it to win. That was fair move by the VA, the court decided.

This was the final legal avenue available to Monterey to overturn the VA’s decision, meaning the issue can finally be put to rest after more than a year of bizarre twists since December 2013, when the VA ended the old contract with Alexandria-based Ardelle Associates and awarded two contracts to Monterey.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2015/04/case-closed-ourt-denies-protest-over-va-contract.html