Contractors find that doing business with government is increasingly risky

December 18, 2012 by

Federal contracting is increasingly becoming a high risk business, according to an industry survey scheduled to be released later this month.

The survey from consultant Grant Thornton shows nearly 40 percent of federal contractors achieved lower revenues this year compared to last year while 35 percent made greater revenue, Grant Thornton Principal Lewis Crenshaw said.

In 2011, by comparison, half of government contractors reported increased revenues and about 30 percent reported a decrease, Crenshaw said during a Dec. 14, 2012 event hosted by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management. The consultant plans to release its 18th annual government contractor industry survey later this month.

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Senate’s 2013 defense authorization bill would remove dollar limits on WOSB contracting

December 10, 2012 by

The 2013 defense authorization bill passed last week by the Senate includes a provision that would remove caps on contract set-asides for women-owned small businesses.

The Senate-passed bill also includes an amendment approved on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 to remove current limits on the dollar value of federal contracts awarded to women-owned small businesses.   The bill also calls for the Small Business Administration to conduct a study every five years to examine disparities in the North American Industry Classification System code.

Advocates for women in contracting had for nearly a decade argued that the cap of $4 million for goods and services contracts and $6.5 million on manufacturing contracts discouraged contracting officers from taking the trouble to solicit women-owned businesses.

Court rules VA can ignore set-asides for veteran-owned businesses on GSA Schedule buys

December 4, 2012 by

The Department of Veterans Affairs takes the position that it is not obligated to consider veteran-owned businesses on goods and services it buys through GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule, and now the VA has a court decision that backs its stance.

On November 27, 2012, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that the VA has discretion to procure goods and services from GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule without first considering a set-aside acquisition for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) or veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) (Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States).

This ruling is a distinct departure from several recent U.S. Government Accountability Office decisions.  The GAO has consistently ruled that the VA must comply with the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 before conducting a GSA Schedule buy. The 2006 Act created the “Veterans First” contracting program that gives priority to SDVOSBs and VOSBs in VA acquisitions.  The VA has maintained that the GAO’s interpretation of the 2006 Act was wrong and instructed its contracting officers to not apply the “Veterans First” principles to Schedule contracting.

The Kingdomware case represents the first time a court has ruled on the question of whether the GSA Schedule program is influenced by the terms of the “Veterans First” program.

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GDOT audit finds flaws in disadvantaged business certification process

December 3, 2012 by

An audit completed amid concerns about airport contracts found flaws in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s process to certify businesses with “disadvantaged” status for government contracts. The internal audit discovered calculation errors in more than two-thirds of the sampling of applications it reviewed.

The findings of the audit raise questions about the disadvantaged business certification process GDOT had been using, but it’s not clear how many of the applicants reviewed went on to win contracts.

The “disadvantaged business enterprise” certifications give firms special consideration, since agencies set goals to award a certain percentage of contracts to disadvantaged firms.

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Online dashboard gives vendors insights into government IT purchasing

November 29, 2012 by

The General Services Administration launched a new online dashboard Tuesday that lists agencies’ information technology spending using governmentwide acquisition contracts.

The dashboard’s goal is to help agencies make “data driven” decisions about where to invest IT funding and to give federal IT vendors insight into new business opportunities, the agency said in a press release.

Governmentwide acquisition contracts, or GWACs, are master contracts for popular IT products and services that agencies can simply purchase for a set price rather than negotiate their own agreements with the vendor or put requirement out for competitive bids.

The dashboard allows users to organize GWAC purchases stretching back to 2004 by agency or vendor.

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Businessman falsely claiming to be service-disabled veteran sentenced to 7 years in prison

November 26, 2012 by

A federal judge on Monday sentenced a Blue Springs businessman who claimed to be a war hero to more than seven years in prison for taking federal contracts meant for disabled veterans.

Warren K. Parker pleaded guilty in April in Kansas federal court to two counts of fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of making a false statement, admitting he had falsely claimed to be a disabled veteran who had received three Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts.

Parker used a false resume to secure more than $6.7 million in contracts for his company, Silver Star Construction LLC, with the Department of Veterans Affairs and more than $748,000 in Defense Department contracts, according to the Kansas U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Investigators found that Parker served in the Missouri National Guard from 1963 to 1968. He never left Missouri while assigned to the guard or in the six months he spent on active duty, prosecutors said.

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Big firms edge out small businesses for billions in awards

November 16, 2012 by

Major U.S. companies including General Dynamics Corp. and Medtronic Inc. have received billions of dollars in federal government contracts that were supposed to go to small businesses

The BGOV Barometer shows that about $4.74 billion, or 45 percent, of more than $10.6 billion targeted for small businesses under government acquisition rules were won by bigger competitors in the year that ended Sept. 30, 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Companies that need the revenue the most are losing opportunities, said Margot Dorfman, chief executive officer of the Washington-based U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

“I think this particular issue should be one of the top concerns of the Small Business Administration and the president,” Dorfman said in an interview. “Fix it now. Let’s not wait.”

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GSA plans new governmentwide software contracts

November 14, 2012 by

The General Services Administration plans to create a slate of new blanket purchase agreements with large commercial software publishers to be used governmentwide, according to solicitation documents issued Thursday.

The new contracts will allow agencies to use software from a collection of large publishers based on standard rates negotiated by GSA rather than negotiating purchases themselves.

Officials from GSA’s SmartBUY program and a cadre of software advisers from across the government are seeking input from major publishers as they put the BPAs together, the sources sought document said.

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Judge upholds service contractor campaign donation ban

November 12, 2012 by

A federal judge has ruled a law banning government contractors from contributing to political candidates, parties and their committees should stand, Courthouse News Service reports.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a 19-page ruling against the three plaintiffs, two of which hold contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the other with the Administrative Conference of the United States.

According to Fierce Government, the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972 bans contributions from individuals with whom a federal agency has directly contracted with for personal services.

Personal services contractors also cannot donate to any super political action committee and must avoid in-kind contributions to super PACs, Geoff Whiting writes for Fierce Government.

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GSA to pare back supply schedules, grow strategic sourcing

November 5, 2012 by

The General Services Administration may consolidate its 31 Federal Supply Schedules into eight, a top agency official recently said.

GSA has floated the idea to industry groups and customer agencies of reorganizing the supply schedules program to make it easier for government buyers to navigate, Jeff Koses, GSA’s director of acquisition operations, said at a conference of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

“In some ways, schedules have become more complex to navigate than they were 10 to 20 years ago,” Koses said.

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