Deadline for comments is Feb. 27 on proposed rule affecting small business federal contracts

February 23, 2015 by

Are you a small business owner doing business with the government?  As previously reported here, the Small Business Administration (SBA) recently published a proposed rule to implement Section 1651 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), proposing to change several key areas that could impact you:

  • The performance requirements applicable to small business and socioeconomic program set aside contracts and small business subcontracting.
  • The nonmanufacturer rule and affiliation rules.
  • The performance requirements for joint ventures.

From the SBA’s point of view, the proposed regulations should benefit small businesses by allowing small business concerns to use similarly-situated subcontractors in the performance of a set-aside contract, thereby expanding the capacity of small business prime contractors and potentially enabling small businesses to compete for and win larger contracts. SBA also believes the proposed rules will strengthen the small business subcontracting provisions, which may result in more subcontract awards to small business concerns. The proposed regulations also seek to address or clarify issues that are ambiguous or subject to dispute, thereby providing clarity to federal contracting officers as well as small business concerns.

Have comments? Visit the Federal Register online for information and to submit your comments by February 27, 2015.

Incumbent’s past performance score lowered as a result of missing subcontracting goals

February 18, 2015 by

A large incumbent contractor was properly assigned a mere “satisfactory confidence” past performance rating because the large business failed to meet its small business subcontracting goals under four of the five contracts it submitted for evaluation.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO upheld the agency’s assignment of a satisfactory confidence score to the large incumbent–despite the incumbent’s strong performance in many areas–because of the incumbent’s failure to satisfy its subcontracting goals.

In Science Applications International Corp., B-408690.2, B-408690.3 (Dec. 17, 2014), the Defense Logistics Agency issued a solicitation to provide supplies and services pursuant to DLA’s tailored logistics support prime vendor program in the Southeast Region of the United States.  The solicitation provided that each contract would be awarded on a best value basis, considering three evaluation factors: past performance, technical merit, and price.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/gaobidprotests/subcontracting-goals-missed-incumbents-past-performance-score-lowered

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

GTPAC-hosted Jan. 22 event to aid Georgia small businesses

January 13, 2015 by

On Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) will play host to six federal agencies holding an industry day forum directed at small businesses in Georgia.  NOTE: As of Jan. 16, 2015, this event is booked to capacity, and no further registrations are being accepted.

NCMA logoThe event is being sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) and the regional office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The event, billed as “Building Partnerships and Collaborating for Success, a Small Business Industry Day and Matchmaking Event,” is open to all businesses in the region who wish to learn more about doing business with  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

In addition to federal agencies, representatives of major prime contractors also are expected to be present, including Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, ICF International, RTI International, WYLE, Westat, Deloitte, and DB Consulting Group, Inc.

Businesses interested in participating in this event must preregister at: http://gtpac.ecenterdirect.com/ConferenceDetail.action?ID=7954.

More than 200 vendors are expected to attend.  Matchmaking events will be scheduled by vendors based on NAICS code requirements of government agencies and prime contractors. Details for the matchmaking aspect of the event will be promulgated separately to confirmed registrants.

All vendors participating in this event are expected to have the following completed prior to attending:  SAM and DSBS registration, business cards, an elevator speech, and a capability statement. See web link above for more information.

Businesses, Pentagon agree this program doesn’t work — Congress saved it anyway

January 9, 2015 by

Over the past quarter century, the Defense Department has been testing a contracting program that was intended to help small businesses obtain a larger share of federal work. However, Pentagon officials and small business leaders say the initiative has not only failed to help small contractors, it’s actually hurt them.

In other words, neither those running the program nor those it was supposedly intended to help believe the program works. Thus, many expected the experiment to come to an end when its most recent congressional approval expires on Wednesday.

But that’s not happening.

In what critics are calling another victory for Washington’s massive contracting darlings at the expense of small businesses, Congress has approved legislation extending the contracting initiative, called the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program (CSPTP), for another three years. It’s the eighth time the program has been revived.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/businesses-pentagon-agree-this-program-doesnt-work-congress-saved-it-anyway/2014/12/30/80d72aa0-9066-11e4-ba53-a477d66580ed_story.html

Large business’s unmet subcontracting goals result In “marginal” score

August 11, 2014 by

A large business was appropriately awarded a “Marginal” score for small business participation based on the large business’s history of failing to meet its small business subcontracting goals.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that the procuring agency properly assigned the large business a low score based on the large business’s history of unmet subcontracting goals, even though the large business apparently pledged to subcontract a significant amount of work to small businesses under the solicitation in question.

The GAO’s decision in Cajun Constructors, Inc., B-409685 (July 15, 2014) involved an Army Corps of Engineers solicitation for the construction of a concrete-covered canal in Louisiana.  The solicitation was issued in an unrestricted basis.  Award was to be made to the offeror presenting the best value to the government, considering price and four non-price factors: past performance, technical approach, key personnel and project management plan, and small business participation plan.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/gaobidprotests/large-businesss-unmet-subcontracting-goals-result-in-marginal-score/ 

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