CPARS is getting a refresh

For over a decade, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has encouraged government agencies to increase their research and evaluation of contractor performance on contracts, with little effect. (Federal News Network April 12, 2021)

The general consensus is that the current Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting Systems (CPARS) is broken. Contractors and Contracting Officers feel it inaccurately rates performances while also being burdensome. For the past two years, Mike Smith, a former DHS director of strategic sourcing and now an executive vice president at GovConRx, has led an effort to rebuild CPARS. His goal, “make sure it results in good information and the information is more strategic and tactically used.” (ibid)

What are some of the problems with CPARS? Many contracting officers rate contractor performances as satisfactory because it takes too much of their time to verify exceptional or outstanding performance and too much time trying to explain why a rating might be below average or poor. (ibid)

DHS is looking to solve this problem through a pilot application of artificial intelligence (AI). DHS recently awarded contracts to five companies to demonstrate their ability to build production-ready software. User groups will view demos using software-as-a-service (SaaS). The user groups are, The departments of Commerce, Energy, Interior, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services as well as GSA, NASA, the Air Force, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The agencies gave the 5 companies in the pilot, 50,000 anonymous procurement records, to assist in training the AI. The goal is to decide which technologies will move to phase 3 in June with an actual launch in January 2022. (ibid)

GSA has some barriers to overcome too. Contracting officers must see the value in vendors providing self-assessments on certain projects. GSA senior procurement executive Jeff Koses sent a memo in February recommending the use of vendor self-assessments s one step in the overall CPARS process. The memo is a permission slip, of sorts, for contracting officers to begin asking for self-assessments as one part of the CPARS process. This should alleviate some of the burden on contracting officers.(ibid)

Mike Smith, a former DHS director of strategic sourcing and current executive vice president at GovConRX said, “you wouldn’t believe how many contracting officers refuse to take input from industry because they think they aren’t allowed to. As a contracting officer, I’d rather have a back and forth at least by midyear, if not before, so we can adjust course and have a common understanding at the end of the performance period and there are no surprises about ratings and the basis of that rating.” Most agree that good contractors will jump at the opportunity to do a self-assessment because they will finally be able to have input into the process. (ibid)

CPARS should also help small businesses. When contracting officers see the small business has done larger jobs and done them well, through a relevancy search and high CPARS, they are a lot more likely to award them a contract. This in turn helps the contracting officer make better-informed decisions through the use of data. (ibid)

Questions concerning self-assessments and the intricacies involved? Give us a call.

 

 

Self-Assess No More

Cybersecurity for  Department of Defense (DoD) contractors is an ongoing issue. Now, DoD is issuing an interim rule to implement an Assessment Methodology and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework. This will assess contractor implementation of cybersecurity requirements and enhance the protection of unclassified information within the DoD supply chain. (Federal Register, DFARS Case 2019-D041 Action: Interim Rule)

The current self-attestation of NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-171 is not working due to a lack of DoD verification. Until the implementation of the interim rule, DoD did not have a mandate to verify contractor basic safeguarding or security requirements prior to contract award.  This regulation changes that. The interim rule adds a process for contractors to  implement cybersecurity requirements. This is to be accomplished while the DoD’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and the procedures with the Accreditation Body (AB) are solidified. (Meritalk, September 28, 2020)

Questions about how the new rule will affect your contract or upcoming bid and what you can expect? Give us a call.

Just the Facts FAS, Please

Earlier this week, a GSA watchdog discovered erroneous reporting of small business contracts by the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). (Government Executive September 17, 2020)

The General Service Administration (GSA) inspector general (IG) recently provided a report that focused on the data entered into the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation, which is managed by GSA. The Small Business Administration (SBA) uses the system data provided to determine if the federal government is achieving its annual goal of awarding 23 percent of contracts to small businesses. An IG review of FAS procurements from fiscal 2016 and 2017 and shows that small business procurements have been grossly overstated.

“We found that FAS’s reporting of small business procurements contained significant inaccuracies. We identified $89 million in procurements erroneously recorded as small business in the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Additionally, FAS’ small business procurement reporting does not identify the extent of the work performed by large businesses. We found approximately $120 million of small business procurements in which large businesses performed a portion of the work.” (ibid)

After interviewing small business contractors and GSA officials as well as analyzing agency contracting data, the IG determined many of the issues to be out of GSA’s control. For instance, the IG found that classification codes  often “pre-populate” for task orders; due to the nature of the software, officers cannot override the system to update the task order codes. In addition, no mandate exists for FAS or small businesses to report how much of the work completed on a contract is subcontracted to large businesses. This leads to inaccuracies when assessing FAS’s small business procurements. Many believe the inaccuracies will never be fully fixed due to the competing policy issues and marketplace anomalies. (ibid)

The IG recommended the following:

  • Fix the limitations of the contracting system to enable accurate reporting
  • SBA and the commissioner discuss how subcontracting and reseller agreements are reported

How does this affect your contract or an upcoming proposal? Give us a call.

Price Inconsistencies on Schedule 70? Nah…

GSA’s IG audit of GSA schedules in 2016 found large price discrepancies between identical items. For instance, the cost of one of Sharp’s 70-inch LED Smart TVs showed prices ranging from $1,597 to $3,000. The audit also turned up prices much lower on commercial products. In addition, from August 2014 to July 2015, most IT schedule purchases were for top-selling items priced higher than the lowest IT schedule price, completely defeating the purpose of the Schedules program. (Nextgov, May 21, 2019)

Recommendations to correct the disparities include:

  • Verify prices for identical IT schedule items by price analysis
  • Improve price protection for IT schedule reseller contracts by setting controls
  • Ensure contracting officers receive accurate and complete information around manufacturers’ commercial sales practices (ibid)

Per the review by the IG, the Federal Acquisition Service has taken “appropriate corrective actions” to address these price inconsistencies.

Questions about IT Schedule or other GSA Schedule pricing? Give us a call at 301-913-5000.

DoE Bureaucracy Hard at Work

In fiscal year 2016, the General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted an audit of 28 entities to address issues with Department of Energy (DoE) contractor oversight. DoE, including it’s National Nuclear Security Administration, is the largest federal civilian contracting agency, spending about 90 percent of its appropriations on contracts with companies, universities, and others for federal research and development,  production, and engineering. (GAO, March 12, 2019)

After reviewing contracting and subcontracting data and documents, analyzing regulations, and interviewing federal officials and contractor representatives, GAO found: DoE awards about $23.6 billion in prime contracts with about 30 percent ($6.9 billion) of that total going to subcontractors in the form of universities, different companies, or entities; almost all 28 primes were also subs; subcontractors totaled nearly 3,000; and subcontractor complexity makes it difficult to figure out the relationship between the various parties. (ibid)

More than $3.4 billion in subcontract costs (over a ten year period) were never audited. Because the statute of limitations is six years (according to the Contract Disputes Act), many unallowable costs may not be recovered. (ibid)

GAO made six recommendations, including that DoE develop procedures requiring local offices to verify completion of subcontract audits and that DoE independently review subcontractor ownership information to identify potential conflicts of interest. DoE agreed with all recommendations except to independently review subcontractor ownership information. (ibid) Huh. Wonder why.