VA cancels contract award for management of its veteran-owned small business program

December 2, 2014 by

Once again, the Department of Veteran Affairs is trying to figure out what company will manage the process of getting veteran-owned small businesses verified.

CVE logoThe agency decided to rescind its September $39.9 million contract award to Monterey Consultants Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, to manage its Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE). That award, the bulk of which was for processing contractor applications to be verified as veteran-owned, which in turn allows them to be able to compete for work set aside by the VA, was protested in September by Loch Harbour Group Inc. of Alexandria.

The VA confirmed in a Nov. 18 court filing that the VA would re-evaluate Loch Harbour’s proposal to determine whether the company qualified for the award. Monterey will no longer be eligible for re-award of the contract, according to the filing, though Monterey executives said that the company is submitting additional information to the VA to counter the protest allegations in hopes that the agency reconsiders its decision.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2014/11/back-to-the-drawing-board-va-cancels-its-contract.html

NY firm pays $2.72 million to settle bid-rigging and kickback charges

November 28, 2014 by

Sevenson Environmental Services Inc., an environmental remediation firm based in Niagara Falls, New York, has agreed to pay more than $2.72 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act by accepting kickbacks, rigging bids and passing inflated charges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in connection with work performed at the Federal Creosote Superfund Site in Manville, New Jersey, the Department of Justice announced Nov. 17, 2014.  Sevenson was the prime contractor responsible for the cleanup of the Federal Creosote Site, which was funded by the EPA.

“The integrity of the public procurement process is severely undermined when federal contractors engage in anticompetitive contracting practices for their own personal gain,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General August E. Flentje for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will hold those accountable who abuse their positions at the public’s expense.”

“EPA is vigilant to ensure that the type of fraud perpetrated by Sevenson employees at Federal Creosote is not tolerated and that federal funds are recovered,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck.

The settlement resolves allegations that Sevenson solicited and accepted more than $1.6 million in kickbacks from six companies in exchange for the award of subcontracts for work at the Federal Creosote Site.  It also resolves allegations that Sevenson conspired with the subcontractors to pass the majority of those kickbacks to the EPA and that it conspired with one subcontractor to pass to the EPA additional inflated charges for soil disposal.

This case was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, with assistance from the New York Field Office of the department’s Antitrust Division, the EPA Region 2, the EPA’s Office of the General Counsel and the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/sevenson-environmental-services-inc-agrees-pay-272-million-settle-claims-alleged-bid-rigging

Mandatory privacy training rule for federal contractors expected soon

November 26, 2014 by

A rule to require federal contactors handling personally identifiable information to train their employees in safeguarding the information is close to release. Under the anticipated rule, contractor employees will have to undergo either agency training when the agency chooses to make it available, or will have to provide their own privacy training programs using an agency-approved syllabus and materials.

The privacy training rule, originally proposed in 2011, would apply to civilian and defense agency contracts in which contractor employees would have access to a federal agency system of records, handle personally identifiable information, or design, develop, operate, or maintain a federal system of records on behalf of a federal agency.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=353346

Federal claims court invalidates key component of SBA’s nonmanufacturer rule

November 25, 2014 by

It has been the common understanding within the SBA, and the small business government contracting community as a whole, that the SBA’s nonmanufacturer rule applies only to contracts for the provision of supplies (i.e., goods) and not to service contracts, regardless of
whether or not such service contracts have a supply component. The SBA memorialized this understanding in a 2011 rulemaking. According to 13 C.F.R. § 121.406(b)(3), the nonmanufacturer rule does not apply to procurements that are assigned a services, construction, or specialty trade construction code.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims (COFC) recently turned this common understanding about the nonmanufacturer rule on its head. In its September 19, 2014, decision in Rotech v. United States, COFC No. 14-502C (2014), the COFC invalidated 13 C.F.R § 121.406(b)(3).

Keep reading this article by clicking here  (pdf file).

VA’s CVE improperly disqualified SDVOSB, says federal court

November 24, 2014 by

SDVOSBs—and basic fairness and common sense—were big winners in a recent decision issued by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. In its decision, the Court held that the VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) violated the law when it disqualified a SDVOSB, without giving the SDVOSB the opportunity to contest the reasons for the disqualification. In a decision reminiscent of last year’s landmark Miles Construction case, the Court then held that the CVE’s substantive reasons for the disqualification were arbitrary and unreasonable.

In AmBuild Company, LLC v. United States, No. 14-786C (Oct. 10, 2014), AmBuild was the apparent lowest-cost bidder on a VA SDVOSB set-aside solicitation. The second-lowest bidder, Welch Construction Inc., filed a protest challenging AmBuild’s SDVOSB status. Welch contended that AmBuild was not controlled by a service-disabled veteran and that AmBuild exceeded the applicable size standard.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, which has jurisdiction over size issues, reviewed Welch’s small business allegation and determined it to be unfounded. The CVE proceeded to separately analyze Welch’s allegation regarding SDV control.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/service-disabled-veteran-owned-small-businesses/va-cve-improperly-disqualified-sdvosb-says-federal-court/

Report: small biz panel manipulated by trade associations

November 21, 2014 by

The government panel that reviews federal rules and how they affect small businesses is manipulated by trade associations, a Nov. 12 Center for Effective Government report says.

Three federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – are required to convene a small business review panel any time the govenrment plans to issue a rule that could have a significant economic impact on small businesses.

But the report says trade associations have too much power over the panel. Trade associations are supposed to identify small business representatives to advise the panel, participate in meetings and even help write their comments, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/report-small-biz-panel-manipulated-trade-associations/2014-11-13

IG says contractor tried to influence DOE to receive no-bid contract extension

November 20, 2014 by

A contractor working at the Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories sought help from federal officials to receive a no-bid contract extension at the lab worth about $2.4 billion, a Nov. 7 DOE inspector general report says.

The report says Sandia Corporation, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin that runs the lab, campaigned aggressively to convince then Energy Secretary Steven Chu to extend it’s contract without any competition.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/ig-contractor-tried-influence-doe-receive-no-bid-contract-extension/2014-11-13

GAO says SBA needs to monitor WOSB certifiers and improve annual eligibility examinations

November 19, 2014 by

In a November 7, 2014 report the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the SBA performs minimal oversight of third-party certifiers of women-owned small businesses and has yet to develop procedures that provide reasonable assurance that only eligible businesses obtain contracts set-aside for women-owned small businesses.

Background

Businesses have two options to certify their eligibility for the federal government’s women-owned small business (WOSB) program. Whether self-certifying at no cost or using the fee-based services of an approved third-party certifier, businesses must attest that they are a WOSB or an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB). Businesses also must submit documents supporting their attestation to a repository the Small Business Administration (SBA) maintains (required documents vary depending on certification type), and, if they obtain a third-party certification, to the certifier.

Findings

In its examination of the certification process, the GAO found that:

  • SBA generally has not reviewed certifier performance or developed or implemented procedures for such reviews, including determining whether certifiers inform businesses of the no-cost self-certification option, a requirement in the agency’s agreement with certifiers.
  • SBA also has not completed or implemented procedures to review the monthly reports that third-party certifiers must submit.

In its report, the GAO says that without ongoing monitoring and oversight of the activities and performance of third-party certifiers, the SBA cannot reasonably assure that certifiers fulfill the requirements of the agreement.

This finding is bolstered by the fact that, in 2012 and 2013, the SBA found that more than 40 percent of businesses (that previously received contracts) it examined for program eligibility should not have attested they were WOSBs or EDWOSBs at the time of the SBA’s review. SBA officials speculated about possible reasons for the results, including businesses not providing adequate documentation or becoming ineligible after contracts were awarded, but the SBA has not assessed the results of the examinations to determine the actual reasons for the high numbers of businesses found ineligible. The SBA also has not completed or implemented procedures to conduct eligibility examinations. According to federal standards for internal control, agencies should have documented procedures, conduct monitoring, and ensure that any review findings and deficiencies are resolved promptly. As a result of inadequate monitoring and controls, potentially ineligible businesses may continue to incorrectly certify themselves as WOSBs, increasing the risk that they may receive contracts for which they are not eligible.

The GAO finds that the WOSB program has had a limited effect on federal contracting opportunities available to WOSBs. Set-aside contracts under the program represent less than 1 percent of all federal contract obligations to women-owned small businesses. The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the General Services Administration collectively accounted for the majority of the $228.9 million in set-aside obligations awarded under the program between April 2011 and May 2014. Contracting officers, business owners, and industry advocates with whom GAO spoke identified challenges to program use and suggested potential changes that might increase program use, including allowing sole-source contracts rather than requiring at least two businesses to compete and expanding the list of 330 industries in which WOSBs and EDWOSBs were eligible for a set-aside.

A summary of the GAO’s report can be downloaded at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666430.pdf

The full report can be downloaded at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666431.pdf 

Company using 60 business names and 50 websites sued by FL attorney general for misleading businesses about GSA Schedule process

November 18, 2014 by

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office filed a complaint on Nov. 5, 2014 against an Oldsmar, Florida-based company allegedly misleading small businesses by claiming to be the U.S. General Services Administration or implying a government affiliation to offer a five-year GSA contract.

Federal Verification Co, Inc., doing business as GSA Applications, conducts business through more than 60 business names and more than 50 websites. The company and manager of the businesses, James Dale Sprecher, allegedly used telemarketing to solicit small businesses and guarantee them a GSA contract within a short time frame, 90 days to six months, for an upfront fee ranging typically from $5,000 to $8,000.

A GSA contract allows a business to sell goods and services to the federal government at pre-negotiated pricing.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office reportedly received more than 200 complaints about the defendants’ unfair business practices.

The Complaint alleges violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. According to the complaint the company allegedly:

  • Makes false and misleading representations as to the likelihood of a customer successfully obtaining a GSA contract, including assuring the business that it qualifies for a five-year to 20-year GSA contract award;
  • Makes false and misleading representations assuring government-guaranteed minimum revenues upon a contract award and a 100 percent guaranteed return on investment;
  • Unfairly collects advance fees, up to $10,000, from customers before services begin; and
  • Enrolls customers without diligent review of their circumstances, adequate disclosure of requirements pertaining to the customer or its products or services, or regard for the customer’s meaningful probability or being awarded a GSA contract.

More details on the company’s alleged practices can be found in a copy of the Florida Attorney General’s complaint which is posted here: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/KCAN-9QKLP3/$file/GSAComplaint.pdf

Source: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/150557BE6B8070AF85257D87006CAFD3 

California company’s sales tactics raise red flags among veteran-owned contractors

November 17, 2014 by

Some in the veteran-owned contracting community are voicing concerns about implications made by a California company that its new offering provides a competitive advantage that doesn’t actually exist.

Los Angeles-based Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., which did not respond to a request for comment, launched 10 Veteran VERIFIED, “a proprietary business verification and authentication service that verifies both military service and veteran business ownership,” according to the company’s press release.

“Once the verification process is completed, a military serviceperson can showcase his or her veteran status sticker in storefronts; a point of sale; on the business website; or through social media.”

What caught the attention of some in the contracting community, however, are claims that the verification could improve a company’s chances of landing contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2014/11/14/california-companys-sales-tactics-raise-red-flags.html?page=all