How one small word change could mean many more contracting dollars for small businesses

June 3, 2014 by

Sometimes, it’s the most subtle nuances in a phrase that matter most — and for small government contractors, that appears to be the case in the federal procurement rulebook.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation, a long list of government-wide contracting rules established by the heads of several federal agencies, requires all large companies bidding on prime contracts to specify what percentage of the money awarded would flow through to small-business subcontractors.

The rule is meant to ensure that small firms “have the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in performing contracts,” according to the FAR, and to help the government meet its annual goal of awarding 35.9 percent of all subcontracting dollars to small companies. Collectively, federal agencies have missed that mark each of the last five years.

Bob Justis says one odd word on page 1,343 in the rulebook isn’t helping.

“Out of all your planned subcontracting dollars, you’re required to set aside some percentage of that for small businesses,” Justis, head of Justis Consulting, a contracting proposal development firm based in Washington, said in a recent interview. “However, it’s required to be stated as a percentage of your total subcontract dollars — not as a percentage of the total contract dollars.”

It’s a subtle but important distinction, Justis explained, because a large prime contractor can, based on that rule, pledge to commit 40 percent of its subcontracting dollars to small businesses. If the company then handles all the work itself, resulting in a total subcontracting spend of zero, it still met its small-business subcontracting goal.

After all, 40 percent of nothing is nothing.

Keep reading this article at: http://m.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/how-one-small-word-change-could-mean-many-more-contracting-dollars-for-small-businesses/2014/05/22/30b4c0d8-e106-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html

House bill would raise small business goals and require bundling justifications

May 29, 2014 by

The defense policy bill that cleared the House May 22 is controversial for multiple reasons, most stemming from its rejection of many of the Obama administration’s cost-cutting proposals in troop compensation, military bases and weapons systems.

But deep inside the 700-plus page National Defense Authorization Act are also provisions to open more federal contracting opportunities to small businesses, and some of these measures are troubling to major contractors.

“The contracting amendments offered to the NDAA are common-sense reforms that will provide opportunities for small companies trying to break into the federal marketplace,” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee. “These amendments address many of the barriers created due to the federal procurement system’s bureaucracy and inefficiency.”

The Graves-sought provisions include one to increase the government-wide small business prime contracting goal from 23 percent of contracting dollars to 25 percent and establish a 40 percent subcontracting goal. Another would require that the administration publish contract bundling and consolidation justifications before issuing requests for proposals for awards under the General Services Administration-run Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.

keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2014/05/house-defense-bill-would-raise-small-business-contracting-goals/85249/

Chicago construction firm pays $12 million to settle DBE contract fraud claims

May 12, 2014 by

A Chicago-based construction company will pay the United States and the State of Illinois $12 million to resolve allegations of fraud on government programs designed to benefit women- and minority-owned sub-contractors under the terms of a civil settlement agreement announced May 1, 2014. The contractor, James McHugh Construction Co., Inc., allegedly failed to abide by federal and state requirements for the participation of disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) in contracts to perform seven construction projects involving roads, highways, and transit lines, funded by the federal and state governments between 2004 and 2011.

The federal and state governments claimed that McHugh violated the federal and Illinois False Claims Acts by making false statements and claims for payment to government agencies regarding McHugh’s compliance with federal and state requirements to include DBEs in the construction projects.

As a result of the $12 million settlement, the federal government will receive $7.2 million and the state government will receive $4.8 million. In a separate administrative settlement and compliance agreement, McHugh agreed to implement a corporate compliance program, appoint a compliance officer, and be subject to an independent monitor for three years, in exchange for the federal, state, and City of Chicago transportation agencies and contracting authorities’ agreement not to bar McHugh from future government contracts. This allows McHugh to continue pursuing and performing public works projects while ensuring that it remains compliant with DBE regulations.

“It was more costly in the long run for McHugh to avoid its obligations to hire women and minority-owned businesses than it would have been simply to comply with the requirements and retain disadvantaged businesses to actually participate in these public construction projects,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “It’s important that McHugh and other companies realize that compliance with these requirements is both a good business decision and the right thing to do,” he added.

The investigation revealed that McHugh Construction falsely used subcontractors to help secure bids for major public construction projects. Specifically, the company used women-owned small businesses to submit false claims to the state and federal governments for millions of dollars when in fact, those businesses never completed the level of work required by law.

The settlement arose from a lawsuit that was filed in 2008 by Ryan Keiser, who was a project manager for Perdel Contracting Corp. and Accurate Steel Installers, Inc. (ASI), at three of the McHugh construction sites. The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the federal and state False Claims Acts.

The federal and state statutes permit private individuals to sue for “false claims” on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery. Mr. Keiser will receive 17 percent of the $12 million settlement or $2,040,000 ― $1,224,000 from the United States share, and $816,000 from Illinois’ portion of the settlement.

The federal and state governments contended that in bids for these contacts, in the final contracts, and in claims for payment, McHugh falsely stated that Perdel and ASI, which were both certified as DBE firms owned by Elizabeth Perino, would perform or had performed work on the projects in satisfaction of federal and state DBE participation requirements in the contracts. The governments contended that contrary to McHugh’s statements, Perdel and ASI often functioned merely as “pass-throughs,” performing little, if any, work that would qualify for participation credit under federal and state DBE requirements. Perino, who owned Perdel and ASI in Lockport, was charged with federal mail fraud in 2011, and the case remains pending.

According to the settlement agreement, the governments also contended that Perdel and ASI’s contracted work for McHugh often exceeded the companies’ capacity and experience. Although their projects with McHugh were substantially greater in size and scope than they had previously performed, Perdel and ASI’s expertise to perform larger and more complex projects did not change correspondingly. Rather than Perdel and ASI performing, managing, or supervising the work that McHugh represented they would, McHugh frequently managed union workers they each hired. In some cases, McHugh directed Perdel and ASI as to which union crews to hire.

McHugh, not Perdel or ASI, also selected certain suppliers on each of the contracts, determined the quantity and quality of those materials, negotiated the price, and often drafted a purchase order for Perdel or ASI to put on their letterhead, the governments contended.  That kind of conduct violates federal and state provisions that are designed to give a share of the actual work of government-funded construction projects to minority- and women-owned businesses.

The settlement is neither an admission of liability by McHugh nor a concession by the state and federal governments that their contentions are not well founded, and McHugh expressly denies the claims.

The settlement was reached on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, and the Regional Transportation Authority.

The separate three-year administrative monitoring settlement and compliance agreement was reached between McHugh and the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. and Illinois Transportation Departments and their procurement officers, and the City of Chicago. In exchange for the government entities’ agreement not to pursue any suspension or debarment action against McHugh for the covered conduct, McHugh agreed to implement a corporate compliance program and appoint a compliance officer who is knowledgeable about DBE programs. The company also agreed to retain an independent monitor to evaluate McHugh’s performance and submit periodic reports to the government agencies and officials, and to make six presentations to those agencies and officials to discuss and promote compliant policies and procedures for working with DBE firms.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/usao/iln/pr/chicago/2014/pr0501_01.html

House committee approves bills to increase agencies’ small biz goals and more

March 10, 2014 by

The House Small Business Committee has marked up and approved a six-pack of contracting reform bills, including legislation that would raise the current agency goals for steering work to small businesses.

The package approved Wednesday would particularly affect the construction industry, women, and disabled veterans. It includes a plan to raise agencies’ small-business prime contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent and establish a 40 percent goal for small-business subcontractors.

“Greater small business involvement in federal contracting benefits companies and taxpayers alike,” said panel Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., who sponsored the bill outlining the new contracting goals. “Small firms are innovative, and increased competition often leads to savings for the taxpayers.”

A second Grave bill would “improve transparency and accountability” by discouraging bundling of contracts to give an advantage to large companies over small businesses. Bills sponsored by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., would restrict the government’s use of reverse auctions in awarding construction contracts and increase construction companies’ access to surety bonds for use in federal procurement work.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/03/committee-approves-bill-increase-agencies-small-biz-contracting-goals/80023 

Feds should provide more education and easily available information for SDVOSBs, Rand says

February 18, 2014 by

Federal agencies should provide more education and make contracting information more easily available to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses to help agencies meet the governmentwide 3 percent contracting goal, a Rand report says.

Additional education for SDVOSBs could include more advanced information and training about the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the federal bidding process, as well about the roles and responsibilities of contracting staff, the report says.

Agencies should remove barriers imposed on SDVOSBs by making information easily available to those small businesses and improving communication between the government and SDVOSBs, the report says.

That includes offering information about current incumbents’ performance to help SDVOSBs evaluate their chances of winning a bid, Rand says.  The government should also provide contracting resources for reviewing prime contractors’ execution of their bid and subcontracting plans, conduct those reviews and publish the results.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/feds-should-provide-more-education-and-easily-available-information-sdvosbs/2014-02-10 

New military spending deal includes help for small business contractors

December 27, 2013 by

In unusually speedy fashion, Congress this week approved both a new federal budget and a military spending bill, both of which provide a sense of clarity to small business owners, particularly those who sell goods and services to the federal government.

But there’s also a little something extra for small business contractors in the latter deal, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes military spending for the coming year and was approved by the Senate late Thursday. In fact, there are two little somethings.

The 2014 version of the legislation, which President Obama is expected to sign in the coming days, included two amendments born earlier this year in the House Small Business Committee, both of which are meant to help small firms in the procurement arena.

The first changes the way prime contractors are allowed to tally up the amount of subcontracting dollars they pass along to small businesses. Currently, the federal government can take into account every small business that works on a given project, even if they are a subcontractor to another subcontractor, when calculating the amount of federal awards that went to small companies in a given year.

Second, the bill includes a rule meant to clarify some confusion over rules concerning the amount of work small prime contractors are allowed to subcontract to large firms.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/new-military-spending-deal-includes-help-for-small-business-contractors/2013/12/20/fe0270d2-6990-11e3-ae56-22de072140a2_story.html 

Little guys complain they’re tossed aside as big contractors absorb cuts

November 22, 2013 by

Computer Frontiers Inc.’s owner thought she’d gotten a break when Stanley Inc. agreed to team up with the small technology company in the U.S. government market.

Instead, Barbara Keating says she feels betrayed. Canada’s CGI Group Inc., after buying Stanley, touted the relationship to win orders in the past three years under a State Department visa-processing contract valued at as much as $2.8 billion. Then it mostly cut the small business out of the deal, sending some work overseas, according to a federal lawsuit.

“We were a big part of winning the contract,” Keating said in a phone interview. “We definitely thought we’d all grow together because of this relationship. But that obviously didn’t happen.”

Large companies are increasingly reducing subcontractors’ roles to help cope with $1.2 trillion in automatic federal spending cuts that began in March, according to attorneys and contracting specialists. Those grievances have reached U.S. officials, who want to know when vendors won’t be working with small businesses that helped them get the work.

“We went to many different parts of the country and met with companies, and in almost every city there was someone that said this was an issue,” said Ken Dodds, director of policy, planning and liaison for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 demanded that the government start requiring contractors that operate under a subcontracting plan to notify agencies when they’re not using small businesses that were part of their bids, Dodds said. A regulation to implement that part of the law hasn’t been approved.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-07/little-guys-said-tossed-aside-as-contractors-absorb-cuts.html

Popular small business course scheduled to be repeated

November 1, 2013 by

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is repeating its three-day course that delves into the intricacies of the government’s Small Business Programs.  The course focuses on the government’s efforts to improve small business participation in prime contracting and subcontracting.

Because of its relevance and popularity, the course is now scheduled to be held:

  • Dec. 3 – 5, 2013
  • Jan. 21 -  23, 2014
  • Apr. 15 – 17, 2014
  • July 8 – 10, 2014

All classes will be held in the world-class Global Learning Center on Georgia Tech’s campus in midtown Atlanta.

Known as “CON 260B – Small Business Programs,” the course is a Defense Acquisition University (DAU) level 2 contracting course that goes a long way to ensure that those in the acquisition field – DoD and non-DoD agencies alike – are more aware of and responsive to small business concerns.  Historically, this class was designed for small business specialists, however The Academy has fashioned this class so that it is applicable to all interested parties – senior executives, managers, contracting officers and contracting staff, small business specialists from all agencies, small business advocates, and large and small business concerns.

A review of DAU’s prerequisite course, CON 260A, is included in the Contracting Academy’s course.

On February 10, 2012 Ashton B. Carter, then Deputy Secretary of Defense released a memorandum regarding “Advancing Small Business Contracting Goals.”  The memo (seen here) reiterates how essential small businesses are to our nation’s economic recovery because they produce more jobs, represent a major source of innovative solutions to warfighter needs that help maintain our status as the world’s finest military, and contribute more to gross domestic output.  The Contracting Academy is committed to supporting Department of Defense and other agency directives aimed at achieving higher levels of small business participation in federal contracting.

Carter’s memo identifies all leaders who manage budgets and allocates funds for contracts in addition to contracting officers as being collectively responsible for achieving the 23 percent goal.  To ensure that this collective responsibility is met, Carter announced that senior executives will be rigorously evaluated and held accountable.  A mandatory performance requirement for supporting this goal includes language that “establishes a command or program climate that is responsive to small business concerns.”

The Academy’s CON 260B is very relevant to the training needs of everyone involved in the process of seeing to it that small businesses participate in government contracting and subcontracting opportunities.  This includes, of course, small businesses themselves.

The Academy offers CON 260B, a 3-day course, as an open enrollment course which virtually ensures seating for all registrants.  Register here for the next CON 260B – Small Business Programs class at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

2.1 CEUs are granted to those successfully completing this course.

This 3-day course is also available for instruction at your site.  For more information or to make arrangements, call 404-894-6109 or email ude.hcetag.ymedacagnitcartnocnull@ofni.

3-day course covers all federal small business programs

September 11, 2013 by

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is offering a three-day course delving into the intricacies of the government’s Small Business Programs, including efforts to improve small business participation in prime contracting and subcontracting.   The course will be held Oct. 29-31, 2013 in the world-class Global Learning Center on Georgia Tech’s campus in midtown Atlanta.

Known as “CON 260B – Small Business Programs,” the course is a Defense Acquisition University (DAU) level 2 contracting course that goes a long way to ensure that those in the acquisition field – DoD and non-DoD agencies alike – are more aware of and responsive to small business concerns.  Historically, this class was designed for small business specialists, however The Academy has fashioned this class so that it is applicable to all interested parties – senior executives, managers, contracting officers and contracting staff, small business specialists from all agencies, small business advocates, and large and small business concerns.

A review of DAU’s prerequisite course, CON 260A, is included in the Contracting Academy’s course.

The Contracting Academy is committed to supporting the latest Department of Defense (DoD) directive aimed at achieving higher levels of small business participation in DoD contracting.

On February 10, 2012 Ashton B. Carter, the Deputy Secretary of Defense released a memorandum regarding “Advancing Small Business Contracting Goals.”  The memo (seen here) reiterates how essential small businesses are to our nation’s economic recovery because they produce more jobs, represent a major source of innovative solutions to warfighter needs that help maintain our status as the world’s finest military, and contribute more to gross domestic output.

Carter’s memo identifies all leaders who manage budgets and allocates funds for contracts in addition to contracting officers as being collectively responsible for achieving the 23 percent goal.  To ensure that this collective responsibility is met, Carter announced that senior executives will be rigorously evaluated and held accountable.  A mandatory performance requirement for supporting this goal includes language that “establishes a command or program climate that is responsive to small business concerns.”

The Academy’s CON 260B is very relevant to the training needs of everyone involved in the process of seeing to it that small businesses participate in government contracting and subcontracting opportunities.  This includes, of course, small businesses themselves.

The Academy offers CON 260B, a 3-day course, as an open enrollment course which virtually ensures seating for all registrants.  Register here for the next CON 260B – Small Business Programs class at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

2.1 CEUs are granted to those successfully completing this course.

This 3-day course is also available for instruction at your site.  For more information or to make arrangements, call 404-894-6109 or email ude.hcetag.ymedacAgnitcartnoCnull@ofni.

MnDOT to pay $300,000 contractor settlement

August 30, 2013 by

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will pay $300,000 to C.S. McCrossan Construction Inc. as part of a settlement in a suit the Maple Grove-based contractor filed after the agency rejected its low bid for work on a portion of the St. Croix bridge project.

McCrossan had submitted a bid nearly $6 million lower than the one that was awarded, but MnDOT gave the job to another firm because McCrossan hadn’t shown it would comply with minority and women hiring rules under the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. In an order signed Monday by state Chief Appeals Court Judge Matthew Johnson, McCrossan agreed to end its suit claiming the bid was improperly rejected.

MnDOT awarded a $58.1 million bid for the contract to partners Ames Construction Inc. and Lunda Construction Co. to complete approach work on the bridge. McCrossan’s proposal of $52.3 million was lowest and also got the best technical score under a MnDOT rating system.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.startribune.com/local/east/220292081.html