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 

Watchdog taps contractors for lessons on rebuilding Afghanistan

U.S. contractors on the front lines of the mission know better than “the happy talk coming out” of Afghanistan, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

On Tuesday (Feb. 18, 2014), Sopko tasked a major contractors group with supplying lessons learned and best practices to help the U.S. effort to rebuild and stabilize the country against terrorism. A similar request to the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development produced a “shocking result,” he said. “I asked for their top 10 successful programs and their 10 least successful, and none offered anything but general improvements—with no specifics or direct causal links,” he said. “In an era of declining funding, we have to know what works and what doesn’t.”

Speaking at a lunch put on the Professional Services Council, an Arlington-Va.-based association of major contractors, Sopko praised the role of contractors in U.S. government work from supplying Revolutionary War troops to helping invent the atomic bomb.

In Afghanistan, they are expected to play a continuing role after most U.S. troops officially depart at the end of 2014, and “many have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Sopko said, citing three contractors who died earlier this month from a suicide bombing in Kabul. After the September 2013 truck bomb attack on the U.S. consulate in Herat, Sopko’s representative there told him that contractors were the first to engage in a one-hour gun fight that prevented further enemy penetration of the complex — a fact not reported at the time, he said.

The U.S. total investment in Afghanistan of more than $100 billion since 2002 is the “most costly effort to rebuild a nation in U.S. history — more than what we give to Israel, Egypt and Pakistan combined,” Sopko said. The U.S. will leave when the funds fall to $250 million, but with $20 billion still in the pipeline, U.S. agencies will be there for some time, he said. Only 20 percent of the country, however, is currently accessible to SIGAR’s 50 auditors there on the ground due to continuing combat, he said, a drop from 50 percent in 2009.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/02/watchdog-taps-contractors-lessons-rebuilding-afghanistan/78989/

NASA doesn’t analyze its strategic sourcing program, IG says

Although NASA developed a strategic sourcing procurement plan, it failed to analyze and track spending through the program, meaning the space agency can’t determine its efficiency, a Jan. 15 NASA inspector general report says.

NASA annually spends about 80 percent of its $17 billion budget on acquiring products and services, the report says.

One of the first steps in NASA’s strategic sourcing program requires a spend analysis to identify potential candidates for strategic sourcing, the IG says.

But NASA only performed targeted spend analyses for a small number of commodities, the report says. It didn’t conduct analyses for the majority of commodities acquired by the agency.

“Without regularly performing a comprehensive spend analysis, NASA is unable to review agency spending patterns for commodities and identify potential candidates for strategic sourcing efforts,” the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/nasa-doesnt-analyze-its-strategic-sourcing-program-ig-says/2014-01-16 

Vendors doing business with IRS owe nearly $600M in back taxes

Some 1,168 businesses that sell products and services to the Internal Revenue Service owe a combined $589 million in delinquent taxes, auditors found.

Federal law — as updated in the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act — forbids agencies from signing contracts with companies with unpaid federal tax liabilities, but the IRS’ system of controls, while effective much of the time, is not fool-proof, according to the report released Wednesday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“When the IRS conducts business with vendors that do not comply with federal tax laws, it conveys a contradictory message in relation to its mission to ensure compliance with the tax laws,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The IRS in the past has resisted TIGTA’s recommendation that it conduct an annual check on contractor tax records. And though the agency’s use of its Master Vendor File is generally effective, auditors recently found that the IRS has not checked the General Services Administration’s Excluded Parties List System. The agency improperly awarded four new contracts or exercised additional option years on existing contracts, valued at $2.6 million, to three vendors that were suspended from doing business with the government, the auditors found.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/12/vendors-doing-business-irs-owe-nearly-600m-back-taxes/75665 

HHS chief seeks investigation into Affordable Health Care website contracts

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday asked the department’s inspector general to investigate the contracting process behind the government’s botched rollout of the online health insurance exchange in October.

In a letter to Inspector General Daniel Levinson, Sebelius said it’s critical to understand the factors that contributed to the failed launch of HealthCare.gov. “I am requesting that your office undertake a review of the work of our contractors, and the management of and payments to those contractors, in the development of HealthCare.gov,” she wrote.

Specifically, she requested an investigation of the acquisition process; contractor selection and project management; contractor performance and monitoring; and payments to contractors throughout the process.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/health/2013/12/hhs-chief-seeks-investigation-obamacare-website-contracts/75326



Poor contracting practices cited at Bureau of Land Management

A government employee who stepped into a contractor’s role is among the targets of a report criticizing contracting practices at the Bureau of Land  Management.

The Interior Department office of inspector general says in a recently-released report,  dated Sept. 30, that a BLM project officer placed a request to modify a contract, “in effect, representing the contractor.”

The project officer and the contracting officer involved had to be counseled  on proper contracting practices, the report says. At the time of the report, the  BLM was finalizing guidelines to outline the responsibilities and limitations of  contracting officers and project officers.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/poor-contracting-practices-blm/2013-10-29?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

A copy of the Interior Department’s IG report is at: http://www.doi.gov/oig/reports/upload/C-EV-BLM-0007-2011Public.pdf 

IG: Debarred firms remain listed for transportation set-asides

The Department of Transportation IG has alerted the department that it found three suspended or debarred firms currently listed in state Disadvantaged Business Enterprises directories as eligible to participate in the DBE program.

The IG issued a management advisory stemming from a recent audit into the DBE program, noting that federal regulations explicitly exclude suspended or debarred firms from receiving federally funded contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fedweek.com/item-view.php?tbl=3&ID=5412 

Read DOT IG’s letter at: http://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/dot/files/DBE%20Management%20Advisory.pdf 

GAO critical of how DoD estimates insourcing cost

The way the Defense Department estimates the cost of insourcing contractor  positions to government employees has come under new criticism from the  Government Accountability Office.

Whether government employees or private contractors ultimately cost the  government less has long been a subject of debate, and past attempts to settle  the matter have faced scrutiny  for flaws in their methods and assumptions.

According to a GAO report dated Sept. 25, the  department’s instructions say to estimate the cost of overhead for insourced  employees by using a standard rate of 12 percent of labor costs. But the GAO and  the department’s office of inspector general have both said that rate has no  sound basis.

Until officials can determine a more meaningful rate to estimate overhead costs,  “savings expected from public-private competitions will be imprecise and  competition decisions could continue to be controversial,” the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-critical-how-dod-estimates-insourcing-cost/2013-10-08

GSA mobile security, acquisition draw ire of IG

Despite having a lead role in the implementation of the White House’s Digital  Government Strategy, the General Services Administration didn’t exactly pass  an audit of its mobility programs with flying colors. A Sept. 10, 2013 office of  inspector general report found several problems with GSA mobile security and acquisition.

Although all apps are required to undergo GSA’s security assessment and meet the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, none of the mobile  applications GSA has released to Apple or Google Play stores underwent such  assessments, says the report.

After developing and releasing four apps, GSA required that evaluations of  future apps follow National Institute of Standards and Technology Special  Publication 800-53 controls. But auditors says those controls are not  comprehensive.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercemobilegovernment.com/story/gsa-mobile-security-acquisition-draw-ire-ig/2013-09-18