Getting the government to green

The increasing number of Natural disasters are actually not at all “Natural.” They are costing the global economy more than $390 billion each year. As a response, consumers and corporations are working on ways to lower their carbon footprint. Simultaneously, the government is putting into place, aggressive timelines to curb emissions. The Biden administration announced a 2030 target, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 52 percent. (Washington Technology September 13, 2021)

Because the federal government has such extensive purchasing power, they have the ability to drive holistic sustainable innovations in the private sector. The government can create sustainability standards and include those standards in requests for proposals, thus driving the private sector into more sustainable practices. (ibid)

According to Bloomberg Government, “$682 billion was spent on contracts in fiscal 2020 a record expenditure for the government.” This gives the federal government the ability to incentivize contractors, who want to work with the government. (ibid)

Will sustainability standards become the norm for requests for proposals? It is already in cybersecurity, the NIST 800 standards have set the bar high for device manufacturers. (ibid)

A recent executive order to speed up cybersecurity advancements pushes industry to progress and innovate even faster. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could use this same type of model to impel sustainability. (ibid)

Once the government makes sustainability a priority, the private world will follow suit. We are already seeing a new mentality and with that, progress.

Questions concerning environmental standards and how to exceed them in your next response to an RFP? Give us a call.

 

 

Get vaccinated, stay safe, continue to work

On July 29, 2021, the Biden Administration announced that every federal government employee and onsite contractor must attest to their vaccination status. At the same time, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force which oversees the development and implementation of agency COVID-19 workplace safety plans issued the COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Agency Model Safety Principles.  The Agency Model Safety Principles must be incorporated into current COVID-19 workplace safety plans. (JD Supra September 2, 2021)

Agency Model Safety Principles:

  • Attestation form signed by onsite contractors to confirm their vaccination.
  • Contractors refusing to sign the attestation form will be treated as not fully vaccinated, for purposes of safety protocols.
  • All contractors who refuse to sign the attestation form or who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask in all settings, physically distance, and take a weekly or twice-weekly COVID-19 screening test.
  • Agencies must create a program to test those not fully vaccinated.
  • Fully vaccinated onsite contractors do not need to be tested, physically distance themselves or wear a mask in areas of moderate or low transmission.
  • All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask in areas of high or substantial transmission. (ibid)

The mandate currently deals only with contractors working on federal facilities. However, the White House stated that “President Biden is directing his team to take steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors.” (ibid)

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force urges agencies to provide onsite contractors with the Certification of Vaccination form as they enter any federally-controlled work area. Contractors will be required to keep the form with them while they are on federal premises. Contractors should be ready to show the Certification of Vaccination upon entry to a federal building or federally-controlled indoor site. Contractors entering without a form will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken within the past 3 days, before entry is permitted. (ibid)

As with all things “COVID,” the policies are evolving and changing regularly. It is incumbent upon the federal contractor to stay apprised.

Questions about GSA? Give us a call.

MAS BPAs, are a good thing

When federal agencies need to place product or service orders, on a recurring basis, they often turn to Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA.).

A MAS BPA is an agreement established by an authorized ordering activity with a Schedule contractor to fill repeat demands for supplies or services, in accordance with FAR 8.405-3.  MAS BPAs and all succeeding orders have the same terms and conditions as the initial Schedule contract. MAS BPAs save the government time and money and give agencies control over their procurements. (GSA Interact August 18, 2021)

MAS BPA benefits:

  • Easier for agencies to fill recurrent needs
  • Efficient for agencies contracting for similar types of work
  • Savings in the form of volume discounts
  • Consistency within the terms and conditions of the BPA
  • Decreases in procurement costs, acquisition time, and administrative effort
  • Small business set-aside procedures assist the government in meeting socioeconomic goals (ibid)

MAS BPA features:

  • On-Ramps – allowing additional contractors as required or to refresh small business participation
  • Funding – funding is required only when an order is placed
  • Faster Ordering – more streamlined ordering process
  • Estimated Value – no minimums or caps
  • Agency Level Terms and Conditions – agencies may add terms and conditions as long as there is no conflict with the original MAS contract terms and conditions
  • Category Management – as outlined by the Office of Management and Budget, all MAS BPAs support category management (ibid)

As a mechanism for promoting fair competition, FAR 8.405.3(a)(3)(i) states a preference for multiple-award MAS BPAs. In addition, MAS BPAs may be extended past five years if necessary to meet program requirements. Some agencies have long-term MAS BPAs to meet agency missions. (ibid)

A single-award MAS BPA can not exceed one year, however, it may have four one-year options. The head of an agency approves all single-award BPAs exceeding $100M. In addition, Order Level Material (OLM) procedures are allowable at the BPA or order level to add contract support items, making MAS BPAs a win for government agencies and contractors. (ibid)

Questions about MAS BPAs or a GSA Schedule award? Give us a call.

 

Will the CARES Act become permanent?

In March of 2020, when the Coronovirus became a pandemic, Section 3610 of the CARES Act went into effect. This section of the CARES Act provides economic relief to contractors so that they can continue to pay their employees. Unless Congress extends Section 3610 of the CARES Act, it expires on September 30, 2021. (Washington Technology August 5, 2021)

The Professional Services Council (PSC) would like for Section 3610 to become permanent. PSC Executive Vice President David Broome feels Section 3610 should become permanent. He reasons this by looking at how several agencies have heavily relied on Section 3610 during the pandemic. GAO saw a combined $882.8 million in reimbursements from across the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and NASA. (ibid)

GAO staff interviewed 15 contractors and 12 agreed that Section 3610 “had a great or moderate effect on their ability to retain employees, in particular those with specialized skill or clearances.” (ibid)

According to Broome, “GAO makes the case for establishing a permanent stand-by authority that would be available when needed and in place when the next emergency happens – be it a pandemic, a cyberattack or natural disaster. Establishing this authority now would be a prudent step to implement one lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that the government and contractors are prepared for the next one.” (ibid)

Are you a contractor trying to take advantage of Section 3610 and not sure where to start? Give us a call.

 

Small Business? Better be able to prove it

The Small Business Administration has contracting assistance programs, in place, to help small businesses by limiting competition for certain government contracts. Additionally, they work to ensure at least 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars goes to small businesses. (JD Supra August 13, 2021)

The current SBA programs are:

  • The small business set-aside program
  • 8(a) Business Development (8(a)) Program)
  • Service-Disabled Business (WOSB) Program
  • Historically-Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program (ibid)

It has come to light that some of these programs have had issues certifying and monitoring participants of the programs. Recently, two inspectors general audited the HUBZone and SDVOSB programs. The audits showed 15 of 39 firms receiving HUBZone certification and a HUBZone contract. Of the 15, three were improperly certified to participate in the program. The SBA had not made an eligibility determination for four others participating in the program. (ibid)

The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General (DoD-OIG) recently issued a report that turned up concerns with how DoD confirms eligibility for SDVOSB contract awards. In the report, 29 SDVOSB contractors were audited. 16 contractors at issue received 27 contracts, together with values at $827.8 million. Those 16 contractors “did not have a service-disabled veteran as the owner and the highest-ranking officer of the company or whose publically available information and contract documentation did not support that the contractor met the requirements for SDVOSB status.” (ibid)

Since the issues have come out, both criminal and civil enforcement has increased. There have been four federal indictments or guilty pleas from business owners who misrepresented their status as a small business, women-owned business, service-disabled veteran-owned business, or minority-owned business. These are all clear-cut cases of misrepresentation and fraud. Recently, a construction company obtained $250 million in government contracts set aside for SDVOSBs. The owner of the company put a disabled veteran as the apparent owner of the construction company to qualify the company as an SDVOSB. The true owner turned out to be a non-service-disabled business partner who controlled both the financial and operational control of the company. This type of fraud is known as a “rent a vet” scheme. (ibid)

The government may use the False Claims Act (FCA) (31 U.S.C 3729-3733) to root out contractors who violate small business compliance laws. The FCA has a whistleblower aspect allowing for whistleblowers to obtain a percentage of the government’s recovery from a successful resolution of the matter. The FCA is a civil enforcement statute that does not require specific intent to defraud. The reach of the FCA is broad and not to be taken lightly. (ibid)

In 2020, there were 8 key settlements, rulings, and filings regarding various small business fraud scheme allegations and five settlements in 2021 already. Just last month a Virginia-based consulting group and the president of the company agreed to pay a $4.8 settlement regarding FCA allegations. The recent civil enforcement should be a flashing light of warning to small business government contractors that inspectors general and the DOJ are actively pursuing contractors who know their actions are in violation of small business contracting rules. (ibid)

To stay compliant and reduce risk, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Establish a company culture of compliance, with every employee understanding the rules
  • Work with subject matter experts to stay informed
  • Continuously verify the company eligibility in the program
  • Assess the eligibility of subcontractors or affiliates
  • Perform comprehensive and thorough compliance risk assessments (ibid)

Following the guidelines will allow small businesses to spend their resources on participating in government contracts and not on criminal/civil violations.

Trying to determine if you meet the guidelines? Give us a call.