Industry group wants President to rescind contractor crackdown order

March 6, 2015 by

President Obama should rescind an executive order that attempts to crack down on federal contractors who violate labor laws, according to a contracting group,

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, called The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order “unworkable” and detrimental to law-abiding companies while requiring contractors to fulfill an expensive and burdensome new regulatory requirement.

“Companies with pervasive, willful, and repeated violations of law should not be awarded federal contracts,” said Soloway. “However, as constructed, this E.O. is fundamentally unfair, vague, complex and in-executable. It will be costly, burdensome and is simply unnecessary.”

President Obama signed the executive order July 31, which requires federal contractors to disclose any labor law violations made over the last three years and for agencies to take that into account when awarding contracts.

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Approximately 600 small contractors will lose their set-aside status in 2015 — and might not know it

March 5, 2015 by

Nearly 600 small businesses will lose a set-aside status in 2015 — and the Small Business Administration isn’t so sure they even realize it yet.

That was among the findings from a report released by the Government Accountability Office Feb. 13 assessing the SBA’s contracting program for small businesses located in designated, highly underutilized business zones, or HUBZones.

Areas are designated as HUBZones based on demographic data including unemployment and poverty rates. The problem, according to the GAO, is the SBA lacks an effective way to communicate program changes to small businesses that participate in the program, which allows them to bid on contracts set aside for small businesses located in HUBZones. And because areas can lose their qualifying status due to changes in economic conditions, resulting in a three-year transition period before the status is stripped entirely, communication with participating small businesses is crucial.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2015/02/approximately-600-small-contractors-will-lose.html?ana=lnk&page=all

Reforms to IGs, acquisition, FOIA included in POGO’s ‘Baker’s Dozen’ of congressional priorities

March 3, 2015 by

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) outlined 13 congressional priorities that would make the federal government more transparent, accountable and ethical in a new report.

POGO’s 2015 “Baker’s Dozen” includes areas for legislative reform as well as issues that would benefit from improved oversight, according to the Feb. 11 report.

Near the top of the group’s list is a call to make agency inspectors general more independent and accountable. POGO asks Congress to use legislation to clarify IG authorities and access to agency records, quickly fill IG vacancies and require more thorough responses from agencies on reports. The organization also calls out the Justice Department in particular, asking that the DOJ IG be given more authority to investigate misconduct by DOJ attorneys.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/reforms-igs-acquisition-foia-included-pogos-bakers-dozen-congressional-prio/2015-02-17

 

San Antonio businessman sentenced in VA contract fraud

February 26, 2015 by

San Antonio 71-year-old Jonathan Patrick Saunders, president of Saunders MEP, Inc., was sentenced last week to one year and one day in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,494,000 restitution for defrauding the Department of Veterans Administration (VA) in connection with architectural and engineering contracts.

Justice Dept. sealOn January 6, 2015, Saunders pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.  By pleading guilty, Saunders admitted that over a period of five years beginning in March 2008, he knowingly provided fraudulent information to the VA in order to obtain up to $2 million in task orders from the VA for projects to be performed in and around San Antonio.

On Feb. 19, 2015, United States District Judge Orlando Garcia found that Saunders made false representations to the VA.  In his SF-330 “Architect-Engineer Qualifications” package, Saunders falsely represented that his business qualified as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, that certain persons with particular qualifications worked for his firm, and that certain projects were completed by his firm.  Saunders used interstate wires to execute his fraud scheme.

This case was investigated by agents with the Office of Inspector Generals from the VA and the Small Business Administration.  Assistant United States Attorney Thomas P. Moore prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtx/pr/san-antonio-businessman-sentenced-va-fraud-scheme

Contractor whistleblowers proposed to be covered in new regulation

February 16, 2015 by

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) to revise its regulations to accept covered disclosures of wrongdoing from employees working under a contract or grant with the Federal government, 80 Fed. Reg. 3182.

The proposed rule can be seen at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-22/pdf/2015-00753.pdf.

Comments on the proposed rule are due March 23, 2015.

 

Attention ‘agile’ contractors: Come show and tell for 18F

February 13, 2015 by

The Obama administration has ambitious plans to embed a full-scale digital-service team within each agency to help overhaul the way government delivers IT projects.

But the teams won’t do it alone.

Officials at the General Services Administration (GSA) and its in-house digital shop 18F are now sending a message to the traditional contracting industry: We need your help, too.

That was the takeaway from the February 3, 2015 joint GSA-18F industry day where officials and industry representatives mulled over plans for a new agile-only contracting vehicle that will eventually help agencies purchase services specifically from companies that specialize in quick-turnaround software deployments

18F has been doing its part over the past year to help agencies revamp citizen-facing services. All told, the office has agreements with about 18 agencies to perform development and design work, officials said.

The relatively small shop — its staff size currently hovers around 100 — has faced “explosive” demand for its services and can’t keep up, said Greg Godbout, 18F’s executive director.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/02/agile-gsa/104577

FAR prohibitions on human trafficking take effect Mar. 2, 2015

February 11, 2015 by

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council has published the a  final rule implementing Executive Order 13627 and title XVII of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, requiring contractors on federal contracts to certify, both prior to award and annually, their human trafficking compliance and monitoring.  The Final Rule prohibits contractors from:

  • engaging in severe forms of human trafficking during the period of performance of the contract,
  • procuring commercial sex acts during the period of performance of the contract,
  • using forced labor in the performance of the contract,
  • destroying, concealing, confiscating or otherwise denying employees’ access to identity or immigration documents,
  • engaging in fraudulent or misleading recruitment practices,
  • employing recruiters that violate the labor laws of the country where the recruitment takes place,
  • charging recruiting fees,
  • failing to provide return transportation to an employee who is not a national of the country where the work is to take place, subject to limited exceptions,
  • providing housing, if required, that fails to meet host country safety or housing laws, and
  • failing to provide a written work document, if required.

The Final Rule is broadly applicable to all Federal contractors and subcontractors, regardless of contract type or dollar amount, including contractors providing commercial items, commercially-available off-the-shelf items, or goods on General Service Administration (GSA) Federal Supply Schedules (FSS).  In addition, certain contractors providing goods and services abroad will be required to make new certifications and implement compliance plans.  Failure to comply may result in financial penalties, termination for default, suspension or debarment, and potential litigation, including false claims suits.

This Final Rule will be effective on March 2, 2015.  The FAR Council has recommended that Contracting Officers to include the Final Rule in Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts with task orders remaining after March 2 through bilateral modification, so both new and existing contracts will be subject to the Final Rule after that date.

To supplement and implement the new FAR provisions in Department of Defense (DoD) contracts, DoD is issuing a final rule in the form of its Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) at Subpart 252.235-7004.  In addition, DoD Procedures, Guidance and Information (PGI) can be found at PGI 222.17.  Included is a sample checklist for auditing compliance: CTIPs_Audit_Checklist_10_May_2011.

SBA proposes stronger enforcement of subcontracting plans

February 10, 2015 by

Large businesses’ subcontracting plans would be subject to stricter compliance standards under a SBA proposed rule introduced December 29, 2014.

The intent of the new regulations is to compel prime contractors to make good faith efforts to comply with their subcontracting plans by implementing reporting mechanisms and harsher penalties for fraudulent actions or actions made in bad faith.  Small businesses subcontractors are likely to agree that these are positive changes.

Many large businesses take their subcontracting obligations seriously, and make every effort to meet (or exceed) their goals.  But there are also the bad apples–those that continually over-promise and under-deliver when it comes to small business subcontracting.  Dealing with these bad apples have led some small businesses to become skeptical that large primes will follow through on their stated subcontracting intentions.

The SBA’s proposed regulation attempts to address this problem.

Comments on SBA’s proposed rule are due by Feb. 27, 2015.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/statutes-and-regulations/subcontracting-plans-sba-proposes-stronger-enforcement/

– See more at: http://smallgovcon.com/statutes-and-regulations/subcontracting-plans-sba-proposes-stronger-enforcement/#more-3551

Four charged in grant fraud scheme

February 9, 2015 by

Four persons have been charged with conspiracy and fraud for obtaining money from small business owners for grant funding and services that they never provided or intended to provide, announced U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada and Laura A. Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Nevada.

Jason Demko, 38, Lorraine Riddiough, 66, Lissette Alvarez, 27, all of Las Vegas, and Mark Jones, 32, of Barberton, Ohio, are charged in a criminal indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture.   They appeared on January 27, 2015 before Magistrate Judge Ferenbach and pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were released on personal recognizance bonds pending a March 16, 2015 trial date.  Demko was scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach on January 28, 2015 for an arraignment.

“Unfortunately, advance fee fraud schemes are very common,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “The con artist will ask for money up front before any tangible service or product is provided, and it will be very difficult to get your money back once you have turned it over to the scammers.”

“These arrests emphasize the FBI’s continued commitment to investigate financial crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Bucheit. “It also serves as a reminder for consumers to protect themselves, and remember if it seems too good to be true, it almost always is.”

According to the indictment and other court records, from about January 2013 to February 2014, the defendants allegedly made false and fraudulent representations and promises to small business owners to persuade and induce them to pay initial fees, usually between $2,500 and $5,000 for goods and services they thought would help them obtain grants for their businesses. The business owners were told that the total cost for obtaining a grant was between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on the total amount of funding requested, and that the remaining fees would not be charged until the owners received 100 percent of the grant funding.  Among other things, the defendants falsely stated that they represented a company named Foundation Processing Center in Wilmington, Del., when in fact, they represented JCD Business Services in Las Vegas; falsely stated that only certain clients had qualified for grants, when in fact anyone who paid the fees were qualified by the defendants; and stated that they had obtained grants for other clients, when in fact they had not done so.  The defendants also re-solicited clients for additional fees, including business plans, when they knew that the plans were not going to assist the clients in obtaining any grants.  The defendants knew that the true purpose of their solicitations was to obtain funds to personally enrich themselves.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on all counts.

This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.  The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.  For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.com.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/usao/nv/news/2015/20150128_Demko.html

New rules proposed for mentor-protégé, HUBZone, 8(a) and other SBA programs

February 6, 2015 by

On February 5, 2015, the Small Business Administration (SBA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register for the purpose of amending existing regulations in order to implement provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act.

Based on these two statutes, SBA is proposing a Governmentwide mentor-protégé program for all small business concerns, consistent with SBA’s existing mentor-protégé program for Participants in the 8(a) Business Development (BD) program. The proposed rule also would make minor changes to the mentor protégé provisions for the 8(a) BD program in order to make the mentor-protégé rules consistent across agency boundaries.

Similarly, SBA is also proposing to amend 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. Finally, SBA’s proposed rule would make several additional changes to current size, 8(a) Office of Hearings and Appeals, or HUBZone regulations, concerning ownership and control, changes in primary industry designations, standards of review, interested party status, and other matters.

Comments on the proposed rule are due on April 6, 2015.

The proposed rule can be seen here: Federal Register Vol. 80 No. 24 Part III Feb. 5 2015

An analysis of the proposed rule can be found here: Analysis of SBA’s Proposed Rule to Create a New Mentor-Protege Program for All Small Businesses – 02.06.2015