Got an idea to improve IT contracting? The government wants to know

May 1, 2014 by

The federal government is looking for a few good ideas to improve how it does business with information technology contractors.

Using IdeaScale’s crowdsourcing platform, the Federal Chief Acquisition Officers and Federal Chief Information Officers councils are seeking an “open dialogue” to help the government “streamline, modernize and improve” the federal contracting process whether it’s through executive action or new laws. The deadline for participation – which is open to anyone – is May 5.

According to the council’s website, such steps could help “remove barriers and burdens for small and minority-owned businesses and new entrants with limited resources and expertise in federal contracting” as well as reduce costs and red tape for existing government contractors.

The government is seeking discussion and input in three specific areas in an effort to make existing rules and practices more efficient and less onerous

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/got-idea-improve-it-contracting-government-wants-know/2014-04-28

 

SAM ‘inelegant and cumbersome’ says GSA CIO

April 30, 2014 by

The System for Award Management (SAM) is operational but it’s not what the future of acquisition systems should look like, said Sonny Hashmi, chief information officer at the General Services Administration (GSA).

Commonly called “SAM,” the consolidated acquisition system launched in August 2012 to bring together three previously separate systems.

“It is still inelegant and cumbersome. We have done just enough to make it operational,” said Hashmi during an April 11 chat on GitHub.

Shortly after the system went live, SAM ran into a variety of problems that required the back-end security architecture, business process management layer and database schema to be completely reconfigured.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/sam-inelegant-and-cumbersome-says-gsa-cio/2014-04-16

Don’t pay anyone to register your company in SAM.  SAM registration is free!  For details, please visit: http://gtpac.org/sam-gov-registration-is-free-and-help-with-sam-is-free-too 

GSA divvies up $67 million for 19 renovation projects

April 29, 2014 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) has identified 19 renovation projects with a price tag of $67.4 million the agency says will lead to long term savings.

The renovations, which include the creation of open work spaces, will allow agencies to rent 507,000 fewer square feet of space, saving them $17 million per year, GSA says. The projects will also allow agencies to move into federally owned space freed up by the consolidations, reducing costs associated with managing leases.

The fiscal 2014 appropriations bill (H.R. 3547) that became law in January provided GSA with $70 million for renovations that reduce the annual rent paid by tenant agencies. The law requires GSA to give preference to projects that result in offices with less than 130 square feet of usable space per employee.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gsa-divvies-67m-19-renovation-projects/2014-04-22

SBA isn’t ready to boast yet, but all agencies have met their small biz contracting goals

April 28, 2014 by

For the first time in seven years, all federal agencies in fiscal 2013 met their goals of steering 23 percent of contracting to small businesses, according to panelists at an industry conference on Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014.

Emily Murphy, senior counsel for the House Small Business Committee, in a discussion on legislation and the Small Business Administration’s rulemaking progress, made the disclosure and suggested that SBA is tardy in making the announcement.

Her co-panelist, Kenneth Dodds, SBA’s director of policy, planning and liaisons, said the announcement “deadline is soft,” and that the score card is still being readied.

The Small Business conference was staged by the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council and is intended as an opportunity for small business contractors to interact with agency representatives on how to qualify and win more work.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/04/sba-isnt-ready-boast-yet-all-agencies-have-met-their-small-biz-contracting-goals/83176

 

Grants and missile defense hit hardest in DoD’s science and technology budget request

April 25, 2014 by

Overall funding for the Defense Department’s science and technology budget undergo about a $500 million reduction in the president’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, with grants and missile defense bearing the brunt of the cut, says a DoD official.

About $200 million of the proposed budget reduction would come from cuts to grant programs nationwide, which equates to about 1,500 grants, said Alan Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.

The department also took about $150 million out of its Missile Defense Agency Science and Technology program, said Shaffer during an April 8 hearing of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities. The decision made sense because much of the technology has matured to a level where it could be moved to other parts of the department, he added.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/grants-missile-defense-hit-hardest-dod-st-budget-request/2014-04-17 

Phony small businesses pay $1.9 million to settle False Claims Act charges

April 24, 2014 by

Five California-based masonry subcontractors and two individuals paid the government nearly $1.9 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by misrepresenting their disadvantaged small business status in connection with military construction contracts, the Department of Justice announced on April 9, 2014.  The defendants are Frazier Masonry Corp., F-Y Inc., CTI Concrete & Masonry Inc., Masonry Technology Inc., Masonry Works Inc., Russell Frazier and Robert Yowell.

“This settlement demonstrates our continuing vigilance to ensure that those doing business with the military do so legally and honestly and that taxpayer funds are not misused,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “Among the rules that military contractors and subcontractors must follow are those relating to the use and hiring of small businesses.”

The case involved contracts to construct facilities at Marine Corps bases at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif.  Under the rules of the Small Business Administration, the contracts required that a certain percentage of the work be performed by disadvantaged small businesses.  This contract requirement was intended to benefit small firms owned by women, minorities and other disadvantaged groups.

The government alleged that the defendant masonry subcontractors and their principals misrepresented to the prime contractors that they were small businesses, and that these misrepresentations caused the prime contractors to falsely certify that they had complied with the small business provisions of the contracts in claiming payment.  Russell Frazier previously pleaded guilty in related criminal proceedings to causing false statements.

The settlement resolves allegations filed in two lawsuits by Rickey Howard, a former employee of Frazier Masonry Corp., in federal court in Raleigh, N.C.  The lawsuits were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case.  Howard will receive $393,383. 

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Howard v. Harper Construction Co., et al., Case No. 7:12-CV-215-D (E.D.N.C.) and United States ex rel. Howard v. RQ Construction LLC, et al., Case No. 7:13-CV-48-D (E.D.N.C.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.   More details at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/April/14-civ-357.html

DLA to conduct “Certified Cost and Pricing” webinar on Apr. 30th

April 23, 2014 by

The Land and Maritime unit of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will conduct a “Certified Cost and Pricing” webinar on April 30, 2014 starting at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. 

DLA Land and Maritime’s mission is to provide spare parts to America’s Armed Forces in peace and war, around the clock, around the world.  DLA buys spare parts used on tanks, Humvees, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), 5-ton trucks and other equipment.  Land and Maritime is also DLA’s lead center for Maritime (ships, aircraft carriers, submarines, etc.) and also the procurement of electronic parts for military use.  (For additional information please see http://www.lana.midandmaritime.dla.mil.)

Land and Maritime has experienced an increased concern with all businesses in providing Certified Cost and Pricing data. This webinar was developed to address this issue as well as to assist both small or large businesses on how to submit complete pricing data that will be acceptable.  It is important to provide good data the first time to help streamline the evaluation process.

To register for the “Certified Cost and Pricing” Webinar, please send an email to lim.aldnull@CCB.CCSD with the following information: Name, your business CAGE code, and email address. In response, the webinar direct link address and bridge line call in information will be provided upon registration.

Prime contractor pays $2.4 million to settle DBE fraud allegations

April 21, 2014 by

U.S. attorneys, the FBI, labor and transportation officials announced on April 7, 2014 that  Connecticut-based construction company Manafort Brothers, Inc. will pay $2.4 million and implement internal reforms subject to independent monitoring to resolve a multi-agency joint criminal and civil investigation into alleged fraud committed by the company in connection with a public works project that commenced in 2007.

As part of the resolution, Manafort admitted that it made false statements to the United States and the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation that disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) performed subcontracted work on the federally and state funded relocation of Route 72 when, in fact, non-DBE performed the work.

Manafort submitted a bid to ConnDOT to serve as the general contractor on a federally and state funded road project.  All qualifying bids were required to designate a percentage of work that would be performed by DBE, a requirement designed to provide socially and economically disadvantaged contractors, who have faced historical barriers to entry in the construction industry, with fair opportunities to compete for federally funded work.

The State of Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) determined that Manafort was the apparent low bidder for the project with bid of approximately $39,663,000.  According to the pre-award bid documents, Manafort represented to ConnDOT that a particular DBE, identified as “Company #1,” would perform work under the contract totaling approximately $3,064,372, or 70 percent of the overall DBE goal.  In its pre-award submission package, Manafort stated that Company #1 would furnish all supervision, labor and materials in respect to the work covered by the subcontract agreement.  This work involved being responsible for the project’s reinforcing steel, materials for structural steel, furnishing a pedestrian bridge that would span the new roadway and the majority of work for a large retaining wall adjacent to the new highway.

The contract for the project was officially awarded to Manafort in August 2007 based, in part, on its representations that Company #1 would perform the work described in Manafort’s pre-award submission. However, during the course of the project, it was determined Company #1 was not performing most of the work that Manafort claimed it was performing.  In fact, the investigation revealed that Manafort was utilizing Company #1 essentially as a pass-through entity.  That is, Manafort would negotiate with and supervise subcontractors that it procured to perform work that Company #1 was supposed to perform or procure and supervise.  The Government maintains that Manafort arranged to pay those contractors through Company #1 to skirt DBE regulations.

Under the terms of a non-prosecution agreement and civil settlement agreement with the government, Manafort represented that it has undertaken various remedial measures to ensure compliance with the DBE programs for its current and future federally funded construction projects.  These measures include establishing a position for an Ethics and Compliance Officer at Manafort, forming a DBE compliance committee that meets regularly to review and address DBE-related issues, mandating DBE compliance training for Manafort employees, deploying software to insure that DBE are qualified to perform the work that they bid, removing the Manafort personnel directly involved in the misconduct, and continuing to assist law enforcement in its investigation.  Manafort has also agreed to pay a civil fine of $2,460,722.02.

Manafort sought an unfair and illegal advantage over its competitors and deprived disadvantaged businesses of an opportunity to perform work on this taxpayer funded construction project.  The non-prosecution agreement announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Connecticut addresses only the corporate criminal liability of Manafort, not potential criminal charges for any individual.

More details available at: http://www.justice.gov/usao/ct/Press2014/20140407-1.html.

Executive order: Contractors must allow employees to discuss pay with each other

April 18, 2014 by

President Obama’s mandate that federal contractors must let their employees discuss compensation might be minor for most businesses, but the heavy lifting is yet to come.

By itself, the order has a “pretty small impact” on most businesses, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president of contractors’ trade group Professional Services Council — especially since it simply prohibits contractors from retaliating against discussions about pay, but doesn’t yet require them to report compensation data.

“Very, very few companies have an affirmative policy that prohibits conversation about pay,” he said, noting that smaller companies are more likely to feel the effects of the order “because of the often close working environment of their employees, whereas larger companies have a larger and often more distributed workforce, even if located in the same building or complex.”

In an attempt to discourage pay discrimination, Obama last week signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to allow employees to discuss their compensation with each other, known as “Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information.” He also signed a memorandum instructing the Labor Department to draw up regulations under which federal contractors would be required to submit compensation data by race and sex.

Once the Labor Department creates those rules — which would be used to ensure compliance with equal pay laws — Chvotkin says he expects contractors to push back. New reporting requirements could force contractors to spend money on new payroll processing systems or on new employees to collect and analyze the data. “Most company payroll systems don’t capture data that way [by sex and race],” he said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/executive-order-contractors-must-allow-employees-to-discuss-pay-with-each-other/2014/04/11/04c40e78-bf48-11e3-bcec-b71ee10e9bc3_story.html

SBA says GSA failed to assess negative impact of office supply contract on small businesses

April 17, 2014 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) failed to assess the negative impact that the Office Supplies 3 (OS3) strategic sourcing contract would have on small businesses, a Small Business Administration (SBA) analysis says.

Under the Small Business Act, agencies must determine whether new consolidated contracts would negatively affect small businesses, and the SBA is tasked with making sure the agencies execute the determination properly.

SBA undertook the analysis at the Government Accountability Office’s request after several small businesses protested to the OS3 request for proposals, saying GSA failed to look into the economic consequences of the businesses who don’t receive an OS3 award. FedNewsRadio posted a copy (pdf) April 7.

In response to the protests, GSA argued that the OS3 contract is a follow-on contract to the OS2 and not a consolidated contract. GSA also said it’s “contrary to law” to provide an economic analysis on the negative impacts a consolidate contract would have on small businesses.

SBA disagrees on both points.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/sba-says-gsa-failed-assess-negative-impact-os3-small-businesses/2014-04-08