GAO partially upholds bid protest against embattled security clearance contractor

Security clearance contractor USIS suffered another in a series of setbacks Monday when the Government Accountability Office partially upheld a bid protest that removes the company from a contract it was given by the Homeland Security Department.

DHS had awarded a $210 million Field Office Support Services contract to USIS in July after the Office of Personnel Management said it wouldn’t do business with the company anymore.

The OPM decision was prompted by claims by the Justice Department that say the Falls Church, Va.-based security contractor took shortcuts and submitted files to the government that had not undergone a full review.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-partially-upholds-bid-protest-against-embattled-security-clearance-cont/2014-10-22

Contract management continues to be a challenge at Energy

Contract management at the Energy Department continues to be a significant challenge, says an Oct. 7, 2014 DOE inspector general report.

The DOE is the most contractor-dependent civilian agency in the federal government. It awards contracts, grants and other financial assistance to industrial companies, small businesses, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations.

About 90 percent of the DOE’s budget is spent through those contracting vehicles, the report says.

The Government Accountability Office has included the DOE on it’s high-risk list since 1990 because of inadequate contract oversight.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/doe-oig-contract-management-continues-be-challenge-doe/2014-10-13

FAR council lays out process for standard contract ID system

Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issued a final rule Monday that lays out how and when agencies should transition over to a standard identification system for federal contracts.

Agencies have until Oct. 1 2017 to implement the new Procurement Instrument Identification numbering system. PIID will only affect new contracts after the effective date, the rule says.

The proposed rule was introduced back in June 2013 and came at the suggestion of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board’s recommendation to develop a governmentwide numbering system for contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/far-council-lays-out-process-standard-contract-id-system/2014-10-14

The final rule is published in the Federal Register at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/10/14/2014-24233/federal-acquisition-regulation-federal-acquisition-circular-2005-77-introduction

VA contracting official resigns amid agency’s attempt to fire her

A top Department of Veterans Affairs contracting officer who allegedly steered work to a Virginia firm resigned Tuesday, eight days after the agency announced that it had begun the process of firing her.

Susan Taylor, the Veteran Health Administration’s No. 2 contracting official, said in an e-mail to employees that she decided to “resign and retire,” effective Oct. 14. She has worked with the federal government for 29 years, spending four of them with the VA.

“I will definitely miss the terrific staff I have had at VHA, both at headquarters and in the field nationwide, but I know that you will continue to admirably serve our veterans through your dedicated service,” Taylor wrote. She also indicated that the VA is trying to recruit a replacement for her.

The VA inspector general’s office said in a report last month that Taylor helped steer a contract to Vienna-based FedBid and worked with the government-services company to overturn an agency moratorium on work by the firm, in addition to interfering with an investigation of the matters.

keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/10/14/va-contracting-official-susan-taylor-resigns-amid-agencys-attempt-to-fire-her/

Could big-data analytics improve federal procurement?

Big data could be an important tool for federal procurement shops, but its usefulness depends on finding quality data and understanding how to use it to track vendor performance and pricing.

Several recent studies — a Government Accountability Office report, a CIO survey by TechAmerica and the IBM Institute for Business Value’s “Chief Procurement Officer Study” — all point to the same conclusion: Analytics and acquisition need to go to more of the same parties.

The Oct. 9 GAO report states that many agencies’ incomplete methods of performing market research affect their ability to make informed decisions about procurements.

Federal agencies are required by law to conduct market research, which the Federal Acquisition Regulation defines as the process used to collect and analyze data about capabilities in the market that could satisfy an agency’s procurement needs.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/10/10/big-data-procurement.aspx

GAO: Agencies not taking advantage of market research on lower dollar contracts

Federal agencies are taking advantage of market research for big dollar procurements, but are missing those opportunities for smaller contracts, an Oct. 9, 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says.

All 28 contracts GAO reviewed included some evidence of the market research conducted. The contracts GAO reviewed were pulled from the Defense Department, Homeland Security Department, Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department.

The market research conducted on the 12 higher dollar contracts GAO reviewed tended to be more robust and include more techniques that involved outreach to vendors, such as issuing requests for information to industry. That helped promote competition, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-agencies-not-taking-advantage-market-research-lower-dollar-contracts/2014-10-13

The small-business conundrum

Recent news reveals that federal agencies overstated their success last year in contracting with small businesses that face socioeconomic disadvantages. It turns out that the Small Business Administration’s inspector general identified over $400 million of contract actions awarded to ineligible firms, thus overstating SB goaling performance in FY13.

Download the IG report here.

While reasons for misreporting are one issue, the perennial issue of meeting SB goals persists. Some people joke that when an agency fails to meet their SB target, the response is to increase it. Does goal setting work? Everyone agrees with fundamental ideals of small entrepreneurs and businesses bringing fresh ideas, outlooks, and solutions to government and societal problems.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141008/BLG06/310080012/The-small-business-conundrum 

Feds buy back USASpending website after contractor bankruptcy

The government procured its own spending transparency website and the primary data system behind it on the same day last month the contract to manage the systems was set to expire, new documents show.

The move frees up previously contested federal contracting data, which will facilitate increased competition for future contracts, according to outside observers and the General Services Administration.

It’s unclear if the purchase became necessary to keep the site running or if the opportunity arose as a result of Global Computer Enterprises, Inc.’s financial instability, which led to a bankruptcy filing last month.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/big-data/2014/10/feds-buy-back-usaspending-website-after-contractor-bankruptcy/96251/

Arbitration of False Claims Act cases may bind the U.S.

False Claims Act (FCA) qui tam fraud claims must be arbitrated as a result of arbitration agreements signed by relators who have brought FCA Justice Dept. sealfraud claims on the government’s behalf, author Dino L. LaVerghetta of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP says, following the holding of a little-noticed case.

What’s more, he explains, such binding arbitration should bar the U.S. from later re-litigating issues decided in arbitration.

If so, this is a factor that both defendants and the Justice Department must weigh in assessing the grounds for DOJ to intervene in a qui tam case.

Read this article at: 

http://www.wilmerhale.com/uploadedFiles/Shared_Content/Editorial/Publications/Documents/LaVerghetta-BloombergBNA-Arbitration-of-False-Claims-Act-Cases-2014.PDF

 

Grand Canyon gets creative to attract bids on concessions contract

For nearly 100 years, Grand Canyon National Park has enjoyed a beneficial relationship with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the nation’s largest parks tourism contractor whose corporate ancestors have sold lodging and concessions at the Arizona wonder since the late 19th century.

But in the 21st century, the cash-strapped National Park Service finds itself pressured to get creative in complying with a 1998 federal law requiring it to regularly solicit competitive bids for services.

The problem: Xanterra over the decades has invested up to $200 million in improvements to its hotel, gift shops and restaurants around the canyon’s South Rim, money it would be entitled to collect should the government yank its concession contracts. The chances of finding a competing concessions contractor willing to assume that debt to Xanterra are considered slim.

So in August, the Park Service announced a new approach. It would solicit a major concessions contract—worth more than $1 billion in potential revenue over 15 years—for the third time since 2013, the first private bids that came in having been deemed inadequate.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/09/grand-canyon-park-gets-creative-attract-bids-concessions-contract/95009