Government agencies offer advice on avoiding contracting mistakes

June 13, 2013 by

[Editor's Note: The Raleigh, NC News Observer's "Shop Talk" reporter Virginia Bridges attended Marketplace, a local workshop and networking opportunity to help small businesses identify government contracting opportunities, and asked representatives from various agencies about common mistakes small-business owners make when seeking government contracts.  Below is a list of tips offered.]

•  “One of the major components is small-business owners fail to actually understand what the city really needs,” said Luther Williams, Raleigh’s Business Assistance Program manager. “I think this could be solved if individuals would just look at the request that the city has out there and do a little research on the city’s request to determine if their product is compatible with the city’s needs.”

•  “They haven’t made the internal decision as to whether or not they really want to do business with the federal government,” said Bruce Osborne, a customer service director with U.S. General Services Administration. “Seventy-five percent of them have not asked themselves that question and afforded the opportunity to debate it with their organization.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/10/2953923/government-agencies-offer-advice.html 

Critical steps a contractor can take to foster E-Verify compliance

June 5, 2013 by

“Yes, we use E-Verify.” “Of course, our company is in compliance, we did an I-9 audit a few years ago – isn’t that the same as E-Verify?” “I know this is not an issue, because I remember being told we addressed all I-9 and E-Verify issues.” “No, the General Counsel’s office doesn’t handle immigration issues.”

You get the picture. Many companies simply do not take immigration compliance seriously. This failing usually does not come from a disinterest in compliance, but rather from a threshold failure to understand the intricacies involved in immigration issues or the potential exposure that could result from noncompliance. Only when faced with government investigations, public scrutiny, or other negative impacts on the business do the right people in the right places start to pay attention. When they learn that federal contractors can be suspended or debarred for failing to adhere to immigration and E-Verify related issues that attention is heightened.

It has been almost three years since the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause (FAR 52.222-54) for federal contractors went into effect in September of 2009.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/federal-contractors-federal-acquisition-regulation-far-e-verify-clause-revisited-cri

Which Georgia businesses won federal contracts in May?

June 3, 2013 by

Ever wondered what Georgia companies are succesful in winning federal contracts?

Now, it’s easy to find out.   The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) produces monthly reports on federal contracts awarded to firms located in Georgia.  The reports contain hyperlinks to complete award details as posted on FedBizOpps and other website databases.

Reviewing the details of these awards can provide insights into government spending, how contracts are structured, the dollar value of awards, who your competitors may be, and the identity of firms you may wish to partner or subcontract with in the future.

You can download a copy of the federal contract award report for the month of May 2013 here: FEDERAL CONTRACT AWARDS IN GEORGIA – MAY 2013

Copies of reports for earlier months can be accessed here: http://gtpac.org/2013/04/whos-winning-federal-contracts-in-georgia/

VA launches pre-review process of VOSB applications to reduce rejection rate

May 31, 2013 by

Veteran business owners now have a new opportunity to fix errors in their applications for verification by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Verification of ownership and control of a firm by one or more veterans is necessary before a firm can be considered for a contract set-aside exclusively for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) by the VA.

To avoid rejecting VOSBs for minor paperwork errors or omissions, the VA has initiated a new pre-determination process.  According to the VA’s May 3, 2013 press release, the process is designed to reduce denials by identifying easily corrected issues on many applications. Businesses that would ordinarily be denied can now take advantage of this opportunity for approval by correcting findings prior to receiving a final determination letter. The pre-determination process allows companies the option to correct their applications and significantly increase their chance for approval to participate in the Veterans’ First Contracting Program.

For more information, please see: http://www.va.gov/osdbu/pressreleases/news20130503a.asp.

How to win contracts when lowest price is the highest measure

May 31, 2013 by

The lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) acquisition strategy, which focuses on price over value, has become the dominant approach that agencies are applying to federal contracting. The accelerated transition to this strategy has been fueled by sequestration and the growing need for government to do business at a reduced cost. Contractors are still learning how to operate in this new environment, but many fear that the emphasis on lower cost labor will reduce the expertise of the work force and result in lower levels of effort.

The LPTA strategy is a step down from best value, admits Tony Constable, president, CAI/SISCo, a company that provides business development support services to industry. In a best value contract, the winning proposal is chosen based on an aggregate view about the perceived value, and that value is tempered somewhat by price. Even if the underlying contract switches from one contractor to another one, the new company could still retain much of the trained labor force. In an LPTA contract, the price—not the solution—is the primary decision criterion, and this affects labor pricing much more so than it does product pricing.

Being an incumbent contractor is the worst place to be on an LPTA bid, because the needed flexibility in labor prices requires huge salary and benefit cuts. Constable calls it the race to the bottom as it relates to labor, but he also acknowledges that the LPTA strategy is reasonable to a point depending on the work.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.afcea.org/content/?q=node/11104

DBE bid protests: One contractor’s loss is another’s gain

May 29, 2013 by

Lately, competition for public works projects is fierce, and bidders, using every possible advantage to obtain contracting opportunities, seem resigned to combing through a low bid to determine if “all I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed.”

As part of this process, the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) compliance requirements have turned out to be a fertile ground for bid protests, particularly on federally funded state highway projects.  The DBE program provides a vehicle for woman and minority-owned, small businesses to participate in public projects.  As part of this program, contractors on federal public contracts are required to meet certain DBE subcontracting goals (for example, 12% of the total bid amount must be subcontracted to certified woman or minority-owned firms).

The requirements for demonstrating DBE participation, however, can be complicated and fraught with pitfalls for both DBEs and contractors alike.  Failure to comply with the DBE bidding requirements to the letter is a common basis for finding a bid non-responsive, and, thus, provides numerous bidders with a basis to protest, including (i) questioning a prime contractor’s achievement of the project’s DBE goal or good faith efforts to meet that goal, (ii) the legitimacy or certification of a listed DBE entity, or (iii) a DBE’s ability to perform a Commercially Useful Function on a project.

For example, a general contractor who submitted a bid which came in “second,” may challenge award of the project to the apparent low bidder on the basis that the DBE firm that the low bidder proposes to use is either not properly certified to perform the work proposed or is not a legitimate DBE firm.  Such protests provide a lucrative opportunity for the second low bidder who may ultimately be awarded the project.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.ac-lawyers.com/news/2013/05/14/dbe-bid-protests-one-contractors-loss-is-anothers-gain

Comments on veteran-owned small business rules sought by July 12

May 14, 2013 by

The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking comments to “improve the regulations to provide greater clarity, to streamline the program, and to encourage more VOSBs to apply for verification.”

VOSBs are veteran-owned small businesses, including service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs).

According to the ANPR, the VA is seeking to “find an appropriate balance between preventing fraud in the Veterans First Contracting Program and providing a process that would make it easier for more VOSBs to become verified.”

The VA’s initiatives on behalf of VOSBs have been both lauded and criticized.  Early in the VOSB program, critics charged that the standards were lax, resulting in fraudulent misrepresentations by firms not truly owned or controlled by veterans.  In separate investigations, both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the VA’s Office of Inspector General (IG) found numerous instances of fraud.   In seeking to take corrective action however, the VA currently is subjected to much criticism by veterans themselves who complain that the verification procedures are onerous and hard to understand.  Under current rules, legitimate VOSB who have been rejected by the VA must wait six months before reapplying for verification.

In response, the VA is now considering ways to improve the VOSB Verification Guidelines.  The VA has already collected suggestions from a wide range of sources for changes to the regulations, and has compiled them into a single document. This compilation document and the existing regulations can both be found at http://www.va.gov/osdbu/veteran/vapVAB.asp

The VA invites public comments on the ideas offered in the compilation document as well as on eight specific questions posed in the ANPR.

The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) encourages all VOSBs and SDVOSBs to read the ANPR and submit comments, ideas and suggestions.  You can download the two-page ANPR here: Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – VOSB Verification Guidelines – 38CFR Part 74.

Comments are due by July 12, 2013.

Video on how to migrate CCR files to SAM now available

April 3, 2013 by

Still struggling with moving your Central Contractor Registration (CCR) records to the new System for Award Management (SAM)?

Last year, SAM replaced CCR as the federal government’s vendor database, and it’s extremely important for every business that wants to do business with the government to be properly registered in SAM.

The SAM system has proven to be a formidable challenge for many vendors, but now there’s a video that walks you through the steps of migrating your records from CCR to SAM.

You can view the instructional video at http://www.youtube.com/user/GSASAMVideos.

If your business was never registered in CCR, your starting point is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VPGVYPvch4&list=UUGYKiouhiBpijT51CplQZ-w.

Who’s winning federal contracts in Georgia?

April 1, 2013 by

Ever wondered what Georgia companies are succesful in winning federal contracts?

Now, it’s easy to find out.   The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) produces monthly reports on federal contracts awarded to firms located in Georgia.  The reports contain hyperlinks to complete award details as posted on FedBizOpps and other website databases.

Reviewing the details of these awards can provide insights into government spending, how contracts are structured, the dollar value of awards, who your competitors may be, and the identity of firms you may wish to partner or subcontract with in the future.

Download recent federal contract award reports here:

SAM registrations and updates suspended until Mar. 25th

March 21, 2013 by

The federal government’s on-line vendor database, the System for Award Management (SAM), is temporarily shut down for purposes of accepting new registrations and updating existing vendor registrations.

The General Services Administration (GSA), SAM’s administrator, says that vendor registration in SAM will again be available on Monday morning, March 25, 2013.

GSA gave notice of this temporary suspension of access to vendor records on SAM’s home page at https://www.sam.gov.  In a notice posted there, GSA said:

  • “Some components of SAM.gov are temporarily unavailable. Users will not be able to register a new entity or update an entity record until Entity Management is available at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, March 25. GSA currently is strengthening security measures to protect user information. The security of SAM registrants’ information is a top priority for the agency and we will continue to ensure the system remains secure.”

On March 15, 2013, GSA notified, via email entitled “SAM Security Incident,” all existing SAM registrants of a potential security breach.  In that notice, GSA told vendors:

  • “The General Services Administration (GSA) recently has identified a security vulnerability in the System for Award Management (SAM), which is part of the cross-government Integrated Award Environment (IAE) managed by GSA.
  • “Registered SAM users with entity administrator rights and delegated entity registration rights had the ability to view any entity’s registration information, including both public and non-public data at all sensitivity levels.
  • “Immediately after the vulnerability was identified, GSA implemented a software patch to close this exposure.  As a precaution, GSA is taking proactive steps to protect and inform SAM users.
  • “The data contained identifying information including names, taxpayer identification numbers (TINs), marketing partner information numbers and bank account information. As a result, information identifiable with your entity registered in SAM was potentially viewable to others.
  • “Registrants using their social security numbers instead of a TIN for purposes of doing business with the federal government may be at greater risk for potential identity theft. These registrants will receive a separate email communication regarding credit monitoring resources available to them at no charge.
  • “In the meantime, we wanted you to be aware of certain steps that all SAM users may want to take to protect against identity theft and financial loss.
  • “Specific information is available at www.gsa.gov/samsecurity.  If you would like additional background or have questions, you may call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636), from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), Monday-Friday starting Monday, March 18. We recommend that you monitor your bank accounts and notify your financial institution immediately if you find any discrepancies.
  • “We apologize for any inconvenience or concern this situation may cause. We believe it is important for you to be fully informed of any potential risk resulting from this situation. The security of your information is a critical priority to this agency and we are working to ensure the system remains secure. We will keep you apprised of any further developments.”

GSA’s March 15th email to vendors was signed by Amanda Fredriksen, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Integrated Award Environment.

There have been system implementation issues associated with SAM ever since its launch in July 2012.  Counselors with the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) continue to make themselves available to vendors encountering SAM registration problems.  We have identified a number of remedies to assist Georgia businesses in the registration pr0cess.  For vendors located outside the state of Georgia, please be advised that there are procurement technical assistance centers (PTACs) located across the country who stand ready to assist businesses with SAM and other government contracting issues.  To find the PTAC nearest you, please visit: http://www.aptac-us.org/new/Govt_Contracting/find.php.

For more background on SAM implementation, please visit: http://gtpac.org/tag/sam/