GSA announces plan to simplify federal contracting

The General Services Administration’s contracting division is developing a new Web platform and business structure to bring more expertise to complicated acquisitions, the agency said April 9, 2014.

The new initiative, called Category Management, will involve assigning a Federal Acquisition Service manager in charge of each of several acquisition categories, such as information technology, professional services and travel.

Those managers will help develop a Common Acquisition Platform with information about contract vehicles, historical prices and other data related to specific procurements, FAS Commissioner Thomas Sharpe said in a 1,000-word blog post.

The acquisition platform will eventually include several tools related to specific categories of government purchases, according to the blog post.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/04/gsa-announces-plan-simplify-federal-contracting/82306/?oref=nextgov_cio_briefing 

‘Reverse Auctions’ draw scrutiny

It is like an eBay of Washington, a well-appointed and well-connected online marketplace for lucrative government contracts.

Deals for everything from pens to pesticides, from painting offices to performing autopsies — all that and more is up for grabs on FedBid, a fast-growing private company that has positioned itself at the profitable nexus of government and business.

Financed by an investment company connected to Stephen M. Case, of AOL fame, and Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the Washington Wizards, FedBid has assembled a roster of Beltway insiders to promote an unusual approach to how contracts are meted out. Its latest big hire is Joseph Jordan, who was until recently head of procurement policy for the Obama administration.

Through FedBid, government agencies use “reverse auctions” — in which the lowest bid wins, rather than the highest — to decide who is awarded contracts. In theory, the process can save money for taxpayers by encouraging businesses to offer the best possible prices. In practice, it also makes a lot of money for FedBid, which can collect fees from the winning bidders who, in turn, pass those costs to the government.

At issue is whether FedBid encourages competition, as its proponents argue, or simply prompts companies to submit unrealistically low bids to outmaneuver business rivals. Detractors contend that awarding contracts based solely on price means that the government risks ending up with inferior products or services, though this is a risk even when the government does not use reverse auctions. A recent government study, which reviewed reverse auctions at top agencies, found that roughly a third of all FedBid auctions involved a single bidder, meaning that they were closer to no-bid contracts than true auctions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/business/reverse-auctions-draw-scrutiny.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140407&_r=1 

GAO issues annual anti-deficiency report

Each year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) produces a report that identifies instances where federal agencies obligated or spent funds in advance or in excess of appropriate approval of funding.  This reporting is conducted in accordance with the Antideficiency Act which prohibits such expenditures.

GAO’s summary of agency Antideficiency Act Reports for fiscal year 2013 includes unaudited information extracted from agency Antideficiency Act reports filed with GAO, as required by section 1401 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809, 3192 (Dec. 8, 2004).  Each report entry includes a brief description of the violation, remedial actions taken, and links to individual agency reporting letters. For more information on individual violations and actions taken, contact the agencies filing the reports.

The latest report can be found here.

Per 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1517(a), the Antideficiency Act prohibits federal agencies from obligating or expending federal funds in advance or in excess of an appropriation, apportionment, or certain administrative subdivisions of those funds.  The act also prohibits agencies from accepting voluntary services (31 U.S.C. §§ 1342).

Specifically, the Antideficiency Act requires agencies violating its proscriptions to:

  • Report to the President and Congress all relevant facts and a statement of actions taken, and
  • Transmit a copy of each report to the Comptroller General on the same date the report is transmitted to the President and Congress.

GAO compiles and presents unaudited information from reports filed each fiscal year, including copies of the agency’s cover letters transmitting reports of violations.

GAO: USDA improperly awarded $141 million sole source contract

The U.S. Department of Agriculture improperly awarded a $141 million sole source contract in exchange for the contractor’s agreement to withdraw a GAO bid protest.

According to a recent GAO bid protest decision, the award violated the Competition in Contracting Act, which does not permit an agency to award a sole source contract in exchange for a contractor’s promise to terminate litigation against the agency.

The GAO’s decision in Coulson Aviation (USA), Inc., et al., B-409356.2 et al.(Mar. 31, 2014) involved the USDA’s procurement of next generation (“NextGen”) large airtanker services for wildland firefighting support.  The Air Force initially issued a solicitation for the NextGen airtanker services in 2011.  After corrective action taken in response to a GAO bid protest, the USDA awarded NextGen contracts to four companies.  Neptune Aviation Services, Inc., which had initially been identified as an awardee before the protest, was not awarded a NextGen contract.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/gaobidprotests/gao-usda-improperly-awarded-141-million-sole-source-contract/ 

Information technology price transparency could come at cost

TotaKeep reading  governmentwide transparency on pricing for information technology products could have unintended consequences, said a senior acquisition official.

Today, federal agencies have access to the catalog-list prices companies charge through governmentwide acquisition vehicles (GWAC). Although those catalog prices are negotiated with price fairness in mind – to ensure the amounts are comparable to commercial prices – agencies often pay less than list when executing orders of any significance.

That disconnect between the catalog price being the de facto maximum price, rather than the actual price, has led to efforts to record actual prices and share that information between federal agencies.

Rob Coen, acting director of the National Institutes of Health Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center, told an audience of federal officials and private sector sellers that his agency is setting up a dashboard that will permit customers to “see what other agencies are buying, who’s buying what, who they are buying it from and what they are paying.” NIH runs three governmentwide acquisition contracts, contract vehicles dedicated to IT products or services and meant for inter-departmental use.

The General Services Administration is also developing a “Price Paid Tool,” an online portal currently in proof of concept stage.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/information-technology-price-transparency-could-come-cost/2014-03-25

Privately-financed development project not subject to Davis-Bacon Act, rules U.S. District Court

The Labor Department was wrong to declare a privately financed development project  a “public work” that would be subject to higher wages under the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal court ruled Monday in a lawsuit brought against the labor agency by the District of Columbia.

In the ruling, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the “CityCenterDC” development won’t be built or used by the government or the public. While the mixed-use project of condominiums, apartments, offices, hotel, retail stores and some public open spaces will sit on a parcel of land owned by the District of Columbia, it will be entirely privately funded, occupied, and maintained for the duration of the developers’ 99-year leases with the city, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in her decision.

That contradicts the decision that was made by the Labor Department’s Administrative Review Board, which had determined the project was a “public work” for purposes of the Davis-Bacon Act. That law — enacted during the Great Depression to stop contractors from driving down wages with cheap labor — requires the payment of local prevailing wages to workers on federal construction projects. The Labor Department determines the wages.

Legal experts who’d watched the case had said the Labor Department’s decision could have a significant effect on construction projects if it were to stand.

Keep reading this article at: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/04/01/court-rules-against-labor-department-in-citycenterdc-case

Differing DoD and SBA rules on protecting SBIR technical data causing confusion

The intellectual property rights of small business are subject to risk from differing Defense Department and Small Business Administration rules governing Small Business Innovation Research contracts, say DoD auditors.

Policies governing how long the technical data developed by small businesses under the SBIR program differ between the Small Business Administration SBIR Policy Directive and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement.

Federal agencies that spend more than $100 million annually on external research must allocate during the current fiscal year at least 2.8 percent of that budget to SBIR contracts.

The SBA directive governing SBIR says the technical data protection period starts when the last deliverable under the contract is delivered by a small business awardee. That period can be extended if the SBIR data is protected and referenced under a subsequent SBIR contract, even if the rights expired.

The DFARS rule says project completion determines the protection period. DFARS doesn’t whether the protection period can be extended or renewed.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/differing-dod-and-sba-rules-protecting-sbir-technical-data-causing-confusio/2014-03-31

The DoD Inspector General’s report can be downloaded at: http://www.dodig.mil/pubs/documents/DODIG-2014-049.pdf

 

State Dept. IG issues alert over $6 billion in contracting money unaccounted for

The State Department’s inspector general has warned the department that $6 billion in contracting money over the past six years cannot be properly accounted for and cited “significant financial risk and . . . a lack of internal control.”

The warning was the second “management alert” in State Department history, both issued by new Inspector General Steve Linick. Linick took over the job in late September, after it had been vacant for nearly six years.

oth the alert, dated March 20, and the department’s response a week later, were made public Thursday, April 3, 2014.

The department said it concurred in all recommendations and outlined steps it will take to address what it agreed is a “vulnerability.”

Linick initiated the alert format to report on problems that remain unaddressed despite repeatedly being identified in IG audits and investigations. The first alert, released in January in partly classified form, cited “significant and recurring weaknesses in the Department of State Information System Security Program.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/state-department-inspector-general-issues-alert-over-6-billion-in-contracting-money/2014/04/03/8ebf465c-bb73-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html 

F-35’s operating cost to decline, says DoD acquisition chief

The Pentagon will decrease its $1.1 trillion estimate for the cost of supporting Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35 fighter jet over a 55-year lifespan, the top U.S. weapons buyer said.

“It will drop to a number that’s not trivial but is not as much” a reduction “as I would like,” Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for acquisition, said April 3, 2014 at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington.

While debate over the aircraft, the costliest U.S. weapons system, has focused mostly on the price to develop and build the fighter, Pentagon agencies also have disputed its long-term operating costs, from spare parts to repairs.

Kendall declined to elaborate on the reduced 55-year estimate by the department’s independent cost-assessment office. The figure will be released later this month in its next unclassified Selected Acquisition Report. Until then, the official projection is the $1.1 trillion formulated by that office three years ago.

By contrast, the Pentagon’s F-35 program office estimates that the fleet will cost $857 billion to operate and support over its lifetime.

On the separate cost of developing and producing a planned fleet of 2,443 F-35s, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in February that its projection is $390.4 billion, as adjusted for inflation over the years the plane is produced. The Pentagon’s latest estimate by the same measure is $391.2 billion, about a 1.1 percent reduction from an earlier calculation.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-03/lockheed-f-35-s-operating-cost-estimate-to-decline.html 

Scam targets GSA schedule holders using spoofed federal email addresses

The General Services Administration’s schedules program has been victimized by spear phishing attacks costing vendors more than $1.5 million, and law enforcement officials say, is increasing.

GSA alerted Schedule 70 and 75 vendors Wednesday that since July 2012 the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency and GSA inspectors general have been investigating a series of fraudulent orders placed online to GSA vendors from criminals posing as federal contracting officials, according to an email to Schedule-70 and 75 vendors, which Federal News Radio obtained.

The hackers ordered HP printer toner cartridges using official federal employee email credentials but fake phone telephone numbers and stolen credit cards.

Law enforcement officials now say scammers are targeting orders for laptop computers, though it’s unclear if these two cases are related. But GSA said “there are some significant similarities and we’re following up on investigative leads to make further determinations.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/490/3595717/Scam-targets-GSA-schedule-holders-using-spoofed-federal-email-addresses