GSA is about to make Cloud purchases a whole lot easier

GSA is about to reveal a plan for a governmentwide marketplace for cloud solutions. This new marketplace will not only make it convenient, it will also set up a one-stop-shop for agencies to purchase commercial Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, and Platform as a Service, offerings. (FedTech October 7, 2021)

On a recent webinar, Laura Stanton, assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Category in the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said, “We’re looking at how we put together a cloud marketplace that then becomes a buying platform for agencies. We want to put together not just a framework, but a market contractual vehicle that will allow our agencies to buy these core cloud services that we’re seeing them need more and more.” (ibid)

The GSA marketplace will provide agencies with professional IT services as well as post-award contract management tools. It would also set the requirements to verify cloud services meet the baseline security and adherence to guidance from the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). (ibid)

GSA wants to streamline the entire cloud procurement process for agencies. According to Laura Stanton, “GSA uses the cloud and cloud-related IT professional services special item number (SIN) 518210C as a vehicle for multiple-award procurements. The contract type can be used to acquire cloud computing services, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.” Stanton said that GSA is “hearing that agencies have to go to multiple places to buy cloud. We decided it was time to take the next step.” (ibid)

An RFI is expected early in the new fiscal year, which began October 1, 2021. (ibid)

Questions concerning the upcoming RFI? 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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Money, money, money!

It’s the fourth fiscal quarter for the federal government and that means it’s time to use that budget or risk losing it. The fourth quarter generally holds great opportunities for contractors from July to September as agencies are keen to use up their budgets. (Federal Times August 3, 2021)

During the month of September, federal contract awards account for nearly 16 percent of all contract activity, with 40% of small business spending taking place in the last quarter of the fiscal year. Although not all agencies are the same in how they treat fourth-quarter spending, the State Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture tend to do some of their “big spending” in Q4. (ibid)

COVID-19 spending continues to account for a large share of federal contracting. The heavy COVID spending has changed the spending cycles and thrown them out of balance. This might make the Q4 rush a little less robust than in past years however it remains one of the best times of the year to be well-positioned for contract opportunities. (ibid)

Contractors should have a strategy for getting the most out of Q4 spending, especially from agencies known to rely on it.

Hoping to get the most out of Q4 spending but no strategy in place? Give us a call.

 

The Price Reduction Clause needs to go

On July 9th, the Biden administration issued the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. Much of the focus of the Order is on fair and open competition. One way to accomplish this is the elimination of the Price Reduction Clause (PRC). The elimination of the PRC will streamline the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) program by removing barriers to entry into the federal marketplace. (Federal News Network July 19, 2021)

Robin Carnahan, General Services Administration Administrator, during her confirmation hearing, said, “I’ve talked to businesses that have tried to get on GSA Schedules… [T]hey’ve told me about how difficult that process is, and I’m interested in learning more about how we can streamline that.” The Price Reduction Clause elimination is a start. (ibid)

One could argue the following points to eliminate PRC:

  • The advancement of technology and the use of new purchasing practices have all but rendered the PRC obsolete.
  • The PRC can keep agencies from purchasing ground-breaking technologies from new vendors.
  • The PRC puts an undue compliance burden on small, medium, and large FSS contractors, costing them millions of dollars each year.
  • Price and value are driven by competition, at the task order level and in real-time. The PRC pre-determines contract-level pricing, often negotiating against presumed requirements from the past.
  • Compliance costs of the PRC can be detrimental to small businesses attempting to address the PRC’s complex compliance requirements.
  • The PRC is the only governmentwide contract term that can restrict contractors working with the government from competing in the commercial marketplace. This hurts jobs and economic growth. (ibid)

The elimination of the PRC will increase competition. Small businesses will more easily compete as price and value will drive task order-level competition. Without PRC’s complex compliance requirements,  small businesses will finally be able to afford to compete.

Looking to provide services to the government but the PRC has been a stumbling block? Give us a call.