Small business federal contracting would change under House bill

March 30, 2015 by

The chairman of the House Small Business Committee introduced a bill that would include more categories for small businesses to get federal contracts.

The bill (H.R. 1481), introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), would increase the number of industries small businesses can compete for contracts as well as identifying new ways to attract small businesses in those new industry categories.

“Small business contracting policies are intended to make sure we have a broad spectrum of small firms working with the government across industries, and when those policies are undermined, it is imperative that we find appropriate solutions,” Chabot says in a March 20 statement.

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VA manager in NC involved in $4 million deal that benefited relatives

March 27, 2015 by

A Veterans Affairs manager in North Carolina created a conflict of interest when she participated in a project that netted millions for her family members, according to the department’s watchdog.

The VA bought 35 acres of land for $4.25 million in 2010 from the Gillis family to build a new outpatient medical facility in Fayetteville, N.C. Wendy Gillis, a VA project manager and professional engineer, was part of the team that assessed and ranked five properties owned by her extended family members for the project. Wendy married into the Gillis family in 2001; two of her husband’s cousins submitted plots of land for consideration in response to a 2010 solicitation in FedBizOpps.

“Although she was not the final selecting official, she was intimately involved in the process, discussed the sites with team members, and was in a position to influence the team,” the IG concluded. The watchdog also criticized four other high-ranking VA officials involved in the project – Daniel Hoffmann, Elizabeth Goolsby, James Galkowski and Jessica Kaplan – for failing to take sufficient action over the conflict of interest, or appearance of, when they learned about it.

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SDVOSB fraud: Large business pays $1.1 million

March 26, 2015 by

A large business has agreed to pay $1.1 million to resolve allegations that it created a “front company” to be awarded a SDVOSB set-aside contract–and then served as a “pass through” by performing the work itself.

In addition to the $1.1 million penalty agreed to by the large contractor, the putative SDVOSB has agreed to pay the government $50,000, plus five annual contingency payments equal to one percent of its total annual revenues.

According to a Department of Justice press release, the government alleged that W.G. Mills Incorporated created a company called Veterans Constructors Incorporated to pursue SDVOSB set-aside contracts.  The government alleged that “W.G. Mills created VCI merely as a contracting vehicle and . . . VCI’s affiliation with W.G. Mills rendered it ineligible to be awarded set-aside contracts for SDVOSBs.”

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Reverse auctions once again in lawmakers’ crosshairs

March 25, 2015 by

Lawmakers are marshaling arguments to restrict the contracting tool called a reverse auction, criticizing agency reliance on a practice dominated by a single private firm at a Thursday hearing of the House Small Business subcommittee.

Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., who has introduced H.R. 1444 to limit reverse auctions, said that allowing contractors to bid electronically with increasingly lower prices to provide goods and services creates “a race to the bottom” that neither assures quality nor helps channel work to small businesses. “When reverse auctions are used properly, they can save taxpayer dollars,” Hanna said. “Unfortunately, some agencies have used reverse auctions in a manner that evades vigorous competition and contractor protections.”

Use of the tool at agencies such as the Veterans Affairs Department is dominated by a single Vienna, Va.-based firm called FedBid, which has become controversial for its lobbying practices. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has been collecting data on the practice, but has yet to issue guidance, noted the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.

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Contractors soon will be able to rate transactions with agencies

March 24, 2015 by

Contractors will now be able to rate their transactions with federal agencies to help those agencies improve the procurement process, says OFPP Administrator Anne Rung in a March 18 memo.

OFPP will use a tool called Acquisition 360, which Rung says is the first ever transaction-based feedback tool that allows agencies to identify strengths and weaknesses in their acquisition processes, according to the memo.

The memo instructs agencies to use the Acquisition 360 platform to to seek feedback from vendors and internal stakeholders – such as contracting officers and program managers – on how well certain high-dollar acquisitions perform.

But the effort to rate the contracting experience isn’t about calling out individual federal employees, Rung says.

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FBI investigates TN road building giant for DBE fraud

March 23, 2015 by

The FBI raided the offices of a Williamson County, Tennessee construction company as part of an ongoing investigation into nine Tennessee Department of Transportation and two Metro Nashville Airport Authority contracts.

The agents seized payroll records, contract files, work orders and computer hard drives from the College Grove offices of G&M Associates. Jones Brothers, one of the largest road contractors in the Southeast, and two of its affiliate companies are implicated in the investigation, according to a search warrant.

Jones Brothers and the two affiliated companies, Mountain States Contractors and Hot Mix Asphalt, were allegedly involved in a scheme to fraudulently land government contracts intended for companies that promise to subcontract a certain percentage of the work to women- or minority-owned small businesses, the search warrant documents state.

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Army signs up for OASIS

March 20, 2015 by

The Army has signed on to use the General Service Administration’s governmentwide blanket contract for professional services, called OASIS, says a March 16 GSA statement.

GSA calls OASIS, which is short for One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services, a first-of-its kind contract vehicle for contracts that span multiple disciplines, such as management consulting, logistics and finance.

The Army is the second of the armed forces to sign on to OASIS. The Air Force agreed to use OASIS for its professional services contracts in January 2014.

In fiscal 2014, the Army’s procurement spend was nearly 17 percent, or $74.3 billion of the total federal contract spending, the statement says.

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GSA proposed rule raises ‘significant concerns’ over competition

March 17, 2015 by

On March 4, 2015, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a proposed rule, GSAR Case 2013-G504, Transactional Data Reporting. The proposed rule would establish a new requirement for GSA contractors, (IT GWAC contractors, Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) Schedule contractors and other GSA contract programs, as applicable) to report transactional data at the order and Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) level to GSA. (Note: the VA Schedules are exempted.)

The proposed rule retains the Price Reduction Clause (PRC) but deletes the requirement to monitor a tracking customer for price reductions for FSS Schedule contractors required to report transaction data. The remainder of the PRC remains in effect. FSS Schedule contractors will still be required to submit Commercial Sales Practices (CSP) information — with the ongoing requirement to provide updates throughout the life of the contract. In addition the rule makes clear that GSA can ask for FSS Schedule contract price reductions at any time. Price reduction requests will likely be based on review of transactional data.

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Man gets probation in fraud case involving federal disabled vets program

March 16, 2015 by

A Nebraska businessman who pleaded guilty to setting up a company the government said fraudulently landed $25 million in federal contracts intended for companies owned by disabled veterans avoided prison time and major fines Thursday, getting probation instead.

Ram Hingorani, 50, of Omaha, was ordered to serve two years of probation at a sentencing hearing. He had earlier agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to major program fraud.

Judge Stephanie Rose sentenced him to live at a halfway house in the Omaha area for six months but he will have work release privileges which will allow him to continue to run his construction company.

Rose ordered the government to keep $3.3 million seized from bank accounts held by Hingorani, his family and businesses. No additional restitution or fines were ordered.

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SBA seeks comment on mentor protégé program, small business size rules, government contracting

March 10, 2015 by

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is proposing to amend its regulations to implement provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.  Based on authorities provided in these two statutes, the proposed rule would:

  • Establish a Government-wide mentor-protégé program for all small business concerns, consistent with SBA’s mentor-protégé program for participants in SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program.
  • Make minor changes to the mentor-protégé provisions for the 8(a) program in order to make the mentor-protégé rules for each of the programs as consistent as possible.
  • Amend the current joint venture provisions to clarify the conditions for creating and operating joint venture partnerships, including the effect of such partnerships on any mentor-protégé relationships.
  • Make several additional changes to current size, 8(a) Office of Hearings and Appeals and HUBZone regulations, concerning among other things, ownership and control, changes in primary industry, standards of review and interested party status for some appeals.

SBA’s proposed rule, and a discussion of its provisions appears at:!documentDetail;D=SBA-2015-0001-0001.

SBA is seeking comments on the proposed rule, and comments must be received on or before April 6, 2015.