SC defense contractor pays $1M to resolve dispute

A South Carolina defense contractor has agreed to pay the U.S. government more than $1 million to resolve fraud allegations related to a contract with the Defense Department.

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said Wednesday the Defense Department paid nearly $435,000 to Columbia-based FN Manufacturing LLC to mentor minority-owned companies. But the government says FN never provided some of the mentoring and contracted out some of the services, an action that violated the company’s contract.

FN is a subsidiary of FN Herstal of Belgium. The company makes the popular M-16 rifle, which is carried by almost every soldier.

— The Associated Press – August 4, 2010

Oversight of war zone subcontractors is lacking, panel finds

Prime contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are not managing their subcontractors’ performance and fees consistently, the Defense Department’s top auditing official told the Commission on Wartime Contracting on Monday.

A Defense Contract Audit Agency review of prime contractors’ billing and cost records identified several situations in which they failed to award fixed-price subcontracts based on fair and reasonable prices, often leading to unreasonable or unallowable costs.

“Prime contractors must be held accountable for establishing fair and reasonable subcontract prices,” Patrick Fitzgerald, director of DCAA told commission members.

Subcontractors comprise about one-third of the roughly 200,000 contractor employees in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the commission’s data. But federal regulations limit government officials’ visibility into the activities of in-theater subcontractors.

Federal agencies enter into agreements with the prime contractors and have no direct business relationship, known as privity of contract, with subcontractors. Prime contractors are legally responsible for managing subcontractors, but many lack the internal controls or oversight mechanisms to carry out that role, the panel suggested.

For example, DynCorp International billed the government roughly $6 million for work performed by Kuwaiti-owned subcontractor Al-Shora International General Trading and Contracting Co. The cost-type subcontract terms required Al-Shora to provide cost data to support its invoices. When DCAA requested that Al-Shora open its books to document its costs, the company declined, citing Kuwaiti law. DCAA has since suspended payment for DynCorp’s billed costs from Al-Shora.

“If foreign companies want to be in business with this government, they ought to play by our rules,” said commission member Dov Zakheim.

DCAA plans to recommend that Pentagon officials consider adding a contract clause that would require primes to manage its subcontractors more closely.

“Prime contractors should have systems or processes in place to review subcontractor billing processes to ensure [they] are in accordance with subcontract terms and conditions,” Fitzgerald said.

In addition, the Defense Contract Management Agency has yet to approve the purchasing systems of two of the three prime contractors — DynCorp and Fluor — for the Army’s multibillion-dollar LOGCAP IV logistical-support contract for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government relies on data from prime contractors’ purchasing systems to ensure subcontract costs are reasonable.

Commission members cited ethical, security and logistical concerns with wartime subcontractors, including allegations of exploitation of unskilled foreign laborers, human trafficking and excessive costs from tiering contracts, or adding layers of subcontractors to obscure fees and credentialing.

“Subcontracting is a normal business practice,” said commission co-chairman Christopher Shays. “But what makes sense for an office renovation project in Maryland can create some unique risks when the contractor is hiring subcontractors in a combat zone half a world away.”

The daylong hearing included officials from four federal agencies, four prime contractors and six subcontractors. Each agreed that subcontracting in a wartime environment presents unique security and operational concerns.

“We recognize the risks of contracting in a contingency operation,” said Edward Harrington, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement. “We must ensure that America’s integrity is not harmed by the actions of our contractors and subcontractors.”

Both State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development officials said prime contractors must obtain their contracting officers’ written consent prior to the award of a subcontract.

Prime contractors told the panel that oversight of subcontractors was lacking at the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in part, because relatively few foreign-owned firms in the region had any experience working with the U.S. government. They said the environment has improved considerably in recent years, but challenges remain.

For example, the federal government frequently prevents local citizens from working on U.S. bases, where much of the subcontract work is performed, said John Supina, DynCorp’s senior vice president of business administration.

“Vetting of host country employees to ensure that they do not support insurgents, will not divert funds to insurgent causes, or pose a threat to U.S. and allied personnel is very difficult,” he said.

— By Robert Brodsky – GovExec.com – July 26, 2010

Government contractors must report subcontractor and executive compensation information

On July 8, 2010, an interim rule was published (75 Fed. Reg. 37414-20) that requires government contractors to report information about their first-tier subcontractors and to report executive compensation for themselves as well as their subcontractors. This information will then be made publicly available at USAspending.gov.

Under the interim rule, contractors are subject to these new reporting requirements:

  1. Information (name, address, etc.) relating to first-tier subcontractors and the amount of each subcontract must be reported. The only exceptions are for classified contracts, contracts to individuals or contracts to those with a gross income of less than $300,000 in the previous year. There are no exceptions for small companies, privately-held companies or companies producing commercial off-the-shelf items.To ease the burden of complying with this requirement, it will be phased in.  Through September 30, 2010, the subcontractor reporting will only be required on newly awarded subcontracts if the prime contract is expected to be worth $20 million or more. From October 1, 2010 through February 28, 2011, reporting will be applicable to newly awarded subcontracts under prime contracts expected to be worth over $550,000. After March 1, 2011, the rule will apply to all non-exempt contracts expected to be over $25,000.The subcontract reporting is to occur by the end of the month following an award, and annually thereafter, by the prime contractors submitting reports to the Federal Funding Accounting and Transparency Act Subaward Reporting System.
     
  2. The names and total compensation (not just limited to salary) from the previous fiscal year of contractors’ and first-tier subcontractors’ top five executives also must be reported. However, this compensation information is required only if the company (prime contractor or first-tier subcontractor): 1) received at least 80 percent of its annual gross revenue from federal contracts, grants and loans; 2) received $25 million from federal awards; and 3) doesn’t already report executives’ compensation publicly (e.g., filed with the SEC).The salary data is to be reported annually as a part of annual updates to the Central Contractor Registration (CCR).

This interim rule is the result of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, co-sponsored by then Senator Barack Obama, which was later amended in 2008. Although some contractors are already required to report this information as a condition of receipt of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (“ARRA”) funds, the new rule now applies to all federal contracts with the extremely limited exceptions noted above. To enforce these rules, all federal agencies are required to review reports quarterly and use remedies available under the contract to require contractors to comply.

Besides the effort to actually comply with these new reporting requirements, it becomes paramount for prime contractors to flow down provisions to all first-tier subcontractors, including vendor purchase orders, so they can obtain the information needed to satisfy their reporting obligations or to establish any exception to the reporting requirement.

Contractors must report the required information to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Sub-award Reporting System (FSRS) at http://www.fsrs.gov/.  The subcontract award data will be posted on the Government’s U.S.A. Spending website. Contractors who fail to comply with the Interim Rule may be subject to contractual remedies, including contract termination.

Administration to require subcontractor reporting

Nearly four years after the passage of legislation that mandated the disclosure of all federal contracting awards, the Obama administration is requiring agencies to report data on its subcontracts.

Beginning immediately, agencies must post information on their first-tier subcontracts, according to an interim rule published on Thursday in the Federal Register. The long-awaited rule, which would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation, also would require contractors to report the names and salaries of their five highest paid executives.

“The objective of the rule is to empower the American taxpayer with information that may be used to demand greater fiscal discipline from both executive and legislative branches of government,” the notice stated.

The subcontracting provision will be phased in slowly to minimize the burden on agencies and contractors, the administration said.

Until Sept. 30, newly awarded subcontracts must be reported only if the prime contract amount was $20 million or more. From Oct. 1, 2010 to Feb. 28, 2011, the threshold for reporting new subcontract awards will be lowered to $550,000 or more. Beginning on March 1, 2011, all subcontracts for prime contracts of $25,000 or more must be publicly reported.

The rule will be required for all commercial item contracts and actions below the $100,000 simplified acquisition threshold that meet the $25,000 threshold. The clause, however, is not required in classified solicitations and contracts with individuals. Companies with less than $300,000 in annual revenue also would be exempt.

The rule has been a long time in the making. In September 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which created USASpending.gov, a public database on all prime contract awards of more than $25,000. The bill was co-sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

The Transparency Act required federal agencies begin posting subcontracting awards by the start of 2009. The Bush administration conducted a brief pilot program to test the collection of some high-dollar subcontracting awards. But the government terminated the pilot on Jan. 1, 2009, and it was never revived.

The impetus for the law’s revival appears to be the vast breadth of reporting the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act mandates. The stimulus requires contractors to provide detailed information on their subcontracts, including many of the same data elements that are called for under the Transparency Act. Similar to the Recovery Act, the new rule will apply only to first-tier subcontracts.

Contractors will provide their subcontract reports to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Sub-Award Reporting System. The data will be posted later on USASpending.gov.

The salary provision, meanwhile, stems from the 2008 Government Funding Transparency Act, which requires contractors and subcontractors to annually disclose the names and total compensation — including bonuses and stock options — of their five highest paid officers from the preceding fiscal year, the notice said.

The executive compensation rule, which is required for Recovery Act contractors, applies to awards of at least $25,000. Companies must report the salary data to the Central Contractor Registration.

The 2008 law applies to companies earning at least 80 percent of their revenue from federal contracts, grants and loans and that have received in excess of $25 million in total federal funding during the previous year. Companies would be exempt if they already report the salary data through Securities and Exchange Commission reports, or if they earned less than $300,000 in gross income the year before.

The administration is accepting public comments on the interim rule through Sept. 7.

______________________

— By Robert Brodsky- GovExec.com – July 9, 2010

Hurry up and register in CCR? Stop!

You may have heard that it is essential to register your business in CCR — Central Contractor Registration — if you want to pursue a government contract.  That’s true.

But registering in CCR with incorrect or incomplete information can be worse than not registering at all.  That’s why it is very important to “get ready” for CCR registration by thoroughly preparing yourself.

The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) provides advice to Georgia businesses practically every day on the subject of proper CCR registration.  In the course of providing this assistance, our Procurement Counselors review many existing registrations.   Based on our reviews, GTPAC estimates than as many as 20 percent of the  600,000 firms presently registered in CCR have mistakes in their records.  The mistakes range from misspelled words to empty data fields, to incomplete entries, to selection of incorrect procurement codes, and more.  As a result, these vendors miss-out on government contract opportunities because they are screened-out for not exhibiting attention-to-detail or — because of incomplete data — they cannot be found in the first place.

CCR is the federal government’s primary source for identifying potential vendors.  Every federal agency, both civilian and miltary, utilize the CCR database.  Many federal contract officers initially determine whether a contract should be set-aside exclusively for 8(a), HUBZone, or service-disabled small businesses based on firms identifying themselves with these designations in CCR.  Prime contractors also use CCR to identify potential subcontractors and suppliers, with emphasis on the various small business socio-economic categories.  Even state and local governments consult CCR to find potential vendors who are interested in the government marketplace.  Businesses and non-profits must be registered in CCR in order to receive federal payments and disbursements against contracts and grants.

Are you beginning to see CCR as a tool to market yourself and not just as a task to quickly get out of the way?

There are several steps you should take before trying to register in CCR.  Among these steps are:

  1. Obtaining a TIN/EIN for your business from the IRS.  (Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, it’s important — because of identity-theft considerations —  that you do not operate your business using your Social Security number.)
  2. Obtaining a DUNS number for your business.  (Don’t pay anyone for this; a DUNS number can be obtained through a 10-minute phone call.)
  3. Researching and identifying the PSC/FSC and NAICS codes most appropriate to your business.  (Every product and service is classified by these federal numbering systems, and it’s essential that you identify the codes that are applicable to your business.)
  4. Determining whether your business meets the SBA’s small business size standard.   (Virtually every federal contract valued at less than $100,000 is awarded to small businesses, so you need to know if you qualify.)
  5. Writing a brief capabilities statement.  (You must have a grammatically-correct, short description of what your company does.)
  6. Identifying “key words” associated with the nature of your business.  (These words should be crafted from a government buyer’s perspective; in other words, think about what the government might “call” what it is you do or sell.)
  7. Making a list of business references.  (Be prepared to provide company name, contact person, dollar value, and date range of work.)

These are not all of the preparatory steps, but they are the most important ones.

If you have questions or need help with any aspect of CCR, please consider taking advantage of GTPAC’s services in a comprehensive way.  GTPAC provides assistance to help Georgia firms get ready as well as find and pursue contracting opportunities in federal, state, and local government markets.  This assistance is provided at no charge.  Complete details on how to access GTPAC’s services can be found on our ABOUT US page.

Oh, and one more thing … CCR is scheduled to disappear in late July 2012.  It will be replaced by SAM — System for Award Management.  Stay in touch with GTPAC, and we’ll keep you updated on how this transition takes place and what you need to do.

© 2010 Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center – All Rights Reserved.

Three tips for researching contract awardees and probable bidders

Trying to size-up your competition in the federal contracting marketplace?  Looking for a “winner” to team-up with? Or just curious about what companies are successfully winning government contracts?

Here are three relatively easy ways to do some meaningful market research on-line:

  1. Go to FedBizOpps (FBO) and use the “Advanced Search” feature there to look for contract opportunities and contract awards in the NAICS category that describes what you sell (look up your NAICS codes here).   Set whatever date parameters you’d like (FBO will allow you to search back many years).   You also might want to set some geographic limits on your search.   Be sure to select both active and archived documents as well as awards.   After you hit the Search button, you can then sort through the resulting list (which is compiled by most recent contracts back to the oldest).  Drill down into contract awards postings to see which agencies have bought what you sell and who’s won these contracts in the past.
  2. Whenever you go to FedBizOpps and look at an active solicitation, you should get acquainted with using the two buttons labeled: “Add to Watchlist” and “Add Me To Interested Vendors.”    The first one will ensure that you are sent updates on the solicitation.  The second button will add you to a list of interested parties; it allows the contracting officer to assess potential interest in the solicitation, and when the “View Interested Vendors” module has been activated, it allows anyone to see the list of interested parties, along with all their contact information.  Once you register, this is a good way to “see and be seen.”
  3. If the “View Interested Vendors” module in FedBizOpps has not been activated for a particular solicitation, you may wish to email the points-of-contact listed in the posting and request that they activate it so that all may see the list.  Let them know that you are interested and qualified to participate and wish to pursue a partnering arrangement.  If you are a small business – particularly one in a socio-economic category the government gives preference to – be sure to point that out.  Contracting officers will understand that your gaining access to the list could help facilitate small business participation in the contract.
  4. We promised three tips, but here’s a bonus tip!   Each month, GTPAC posts on its web site a list of the contractors in Georgia that won federal contracts.  Each list shows the name of the prime contractor, the title of the contract, the awarding agency, dollar value, and points of contact.  You can find these lists at http://gtpac.org/tag/awardees/

Be sure to attend classes conducted by the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) and communicate with GTPAC’s Procurement Counselors to learn about even more ways to conduct market research, identify opportunities, and find potential subcontracting leads.

© 2010-2017 Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center – All Rights Reserved.

NASA sued for failing to disclose contracting information

In a bid to hold NASA accountable to meeting federally mandated goals for small business contracting, advocates demanded for the third time that the agency release contracting information for its space operations.

The American Small Business League filed a lawsuit on June 8 asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to require NASA to release subcontracting reports involving United Space Alliance LLC, a spaceflight operations company co-owned by defense giants Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., and NASA’s primary industry partner in managing the space shuttle and the International Space Station programs.

The advocacy group wants to know if United Space Alliance has complied with small business subcontracting goals under those contracts. The organization alleges that NASA violated the Freedom of Information Act by withholding agency records, while NASA claims the data was exempt from disclosure as “commercial or financial information obtained from a person which is privileged or confidential.”

The suit is the latest in a series of legal actions the small business group has taken since 2004 against various federal agencies — including the Army and the Energy Department — to make them account for any large corporations listed as small businesses in government awards. ASBL has won about half the cases.

ASBL suspects NASA is withholding data that will prove it is allowing major prime contractors to falsify compliance with small business subcontracting goals, as well as inflating fulfillment of small business targets by counting “clearly large” firms as small, according to Lloyd Chapman, the group’s president.

The federal government sets out to award 23 percent of the total value of all prime contracts to small businesses annually. The Small Business Administration negotiates individual objectives for each agency, ensuring that when combined they meet the overall statutory goals.

In 2007, SBA instituted requirements for long-term federal contracts to be recertified every five years and at every option point going forward. This would take into consideration the possibility of growth and ensure agencies receive credit for making contract awards to small businesses only as long as the firms remain small.

But advocates say instances of large corporations being listed as small businesses in federal contracting awards keep cropping up.

ASBL spokesman Christopher Gunn said large companies that showed up in data on small business awards in 2008 included Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Corporations that raked in billions of dollars in federal contracts and did not meet the criteria for being small were labeled as such in Washington Technology’s top 2010 government contractors, a list compiled from government procurement data, said Guy Timberlake, chief executive officer of The American Small Business Coalition, which helps small businesses win federal contracts and strengthens their partnerships with the government.

Whether these cases resulted from mistakes in data entry or fraud remains a point of contention between the federal government and advocacy groups.

Timberlake said because federal contracting programs are such complicated bureaucratic exercises, some corporations exploit the loopholes and lack of oversight. They go “code shopping,” seeking out industry codes that will identify them as a small business, even if the definitions do not apply to their actual operations, he said.

Whether a corporation meets the criteria of being coded as a small business depends on host of factors, including its subsidiaries, affiliations, primary industry, number of employees and annual revenues.

“Some out there may say, ‘Uncle Sam is really bogged down right down, so they’ll never notice me.’ ” Timberlake said. “In addition to deliberate efforts to scam the system, just as many corporations are simply not getting good information from various expert resources.”

He added, “There is a level of enforcement with teeth that is needed” in a more competitive climate, but “additional scrutiny entails process, which entails costs.” It is difficult to come up with extra money for oversight at a time when the government is tightening its belt, he said.

United Space Alliance, which received $1.5 billion in contracts from NASA in fiscal 2009, according to ASBL, said it has both large and small business as subcontractors. “Small businesses play a vital role in our efforts to support the nation’s space program,” said spokeswoman Tracy Yates, “and USA is absolutely committed to working with as many small companies as possible to meet that goal.”

SBA declined to be quoted for this story. A NASA spokeswoman said the agency is looking into the matter, but has no further information to provide at this point.

— by Dawn Lim – GovExec.comm – June 15, 2010

Administration wants input on small business concerns

The Obama administration is seeking the public’s help in identifying and fixing the problems small contractors face when doing business with the government.

On Monday, June 28, the Commerce Department, Office of Management and Budget, and Small Business Administration will host a public meeting in Washington on breaking down barriers to small firms working with the federal government, according a notice posted on Monday in the Federal Register.

The three agencies co-chair the Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses, which President Obama established in late April. A second task force will focus exclusively on improving contracting prospects for small businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans.

Members of the public are encouraged to offer comments on obstacles to small business participation, including problems with teaming and mentorship programs, subcontracting practices, set-asides, bundling, training, outreach and technology.

The task force has been charged with expanding outreach to small firms and helping agencies meet the federal statutory goal of awarding 23 percent of all contract dollars to small business. The group must submit recommendations to the White House by the end of August.

The panel, which includes officials from 15 other agencies, held its first meeting last week in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Joe Jordan, associate administrator of SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, said the meeting attracted several senior agency leaders.

“The fact that there was all this high-level interest and participation makes me encouraged that we may actually get some good solutions … and some buy-in,” Jordan said last week during an interview with Government Executive.

The public meeting will be held at 1 p.m. in Commerce’s main auditorium at 1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. Participants are asked to preregister by June 21 by e-mailing their name, organization, contact information and topics of interest to SB_TaskForce_Comment@sba.gov. Those unable to attend the meeting can e-mail comments to the task force by June 30 at the same address.

— By Robert Brodsky – GovExec.com – June 14, 2010