The Navy is looking to end Small Business subcontractor baiting

The Department of the Navy (DoN) has exceeded all of its small business goals for fiscal year 2021, spending more than $17 billion with small business prime contractors. The Navy is, however, wrestling with small business subcontractors getting their fair share. (Federal News Network October 21, 2021)

An updated effort to enforce small business contracting plans is in the works, according to Jimmy Smith, the director of the Office of Small Business Programs for the Department of the Navy. (ibid)

According to Smith, “the Navy executed a Navy audit, service audit on subcontracting on our 10 major buying commands. The Naval Sea Systems Command was the first of those 10 audits. The audit has concluded. We’ve already seen the results of that and now we’re sharing that information across the entire enterprise to go off and correct problems. We don’t think we’re going to learn anything more from going over the same information in the other audits, so now is the time to get into corrective actions and the steps that we need in order to execute solutions to problems instead of continuing to admire problems.” (ibid)

The first audit has provided some changes to be made Navy-wide, according to Smith. “First is reporting back to our industry partners. We have to make that something that’s pretty standard, maybe use a machine learning technology to help contracting officers identify problems that are in contractor performance assessment reporting (CPARs) when it comes to how well our industry partners are doing meeting their own subcontract and goals, that they can communicate it to us. We would love to have a system that flashed bright red lights when an industry partner wasn’t living up to the plan in the document that they provide to us about the health of their effort. Right now, it’s all hand-over-hand reading to see if you find that someone is off and then go do the analysis. I think we have to come up with a mechanism that brings the importance level of subcontract and compliance up to a higher level to raise it to the attention that it’s deserved.” (ibid)

Government agencies and prime contractors, need to hold up their side of the bargain and be held accountable. In 2018, the Inspector General for the Defense Department found it to be a challenge for five contracting commands to monitor prime contractors’ compliance with individual subcontracting plans. He told the House Small Business Committee the individual contractors who held subcontracting plans, did not meet their small business subcontracting goals. (ibid)

The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issued a final rule in August. The rule requires large businesses to make “good faith efforts” to meet subcontracting goals. A few examples of actions that are a failure to make a good-faith effort can be found in the SBA’s guidance list. (ibid)

The final rule spells out what encompasses not making a “good faith effort”. The rule includes turning in subcontracting plan reports late, not designating an employee to monitor the subcontracting plan, and not completing market research. (ibid)

Smith said the Navy has met all of its small business goals for the past four years. He added, the Navy’s goals are not just the numbers, but providing the correct capability to the warfighter at the best value. (ibid)

Smith noted that the Navy is finding small businesses that meet their needs by an extended outreach effort. The move to virtual events has also extended their outreach. Virtual events are more cost-effective and reach more people. Smith plans to continue to do some live events, however, webinars will complement these and hopefully reach even more small business contractors. (ibid)

Questions about your small business subcontract plan? Give us a call.

 

 

Life after DUNS

If you have done any work, within the past 60 years with the Federal Government, then you have probably heard of the Data Universal Number System or DUNS. It is the data format that identifies organizations doing business with the government.

GSA, who administers the program, awarded a new contract in 2018 to Ernst & Young to dispense new organization identifiers. The new Unique Entity IDs (UEIs) will replace the current DUNS numbers. Ernst & Young will also manage the transition. (Nextgov October 13, 2021)

GSA is working with agencies to test the old and the new numbers prior to the final cutover, planned for April 2022. However, before the switch from DUNS numbers to UEIs takes place, GSA through the Integrated Award Environment program would like to work with some testers to ensure smooth sailing before the final cutover. (ibid)

According to Interact.gov, “volunteers get scripts which walk through various Unique Entity ID (SAM.gov) functions, such as requesting and receiving a Unique Entity ID (SAM.gov) or how to deal with error scenarios. Each test script takes about 20 minutes or less. You test at your own pace and send us your feedback.” This is extremely necessary because the DUNS is a nine-number string and the UEI is a 12-digit alphanumeric code. (ibid)

The program office recently released new help resources through the Federal Service Desk under a dropdown option under FAQ. It is also accessible through a large green button icon on the fsd.gov homepage. (ibid)

This large-scale modernization touches every single entity that does business with the federal government. GSA is hopeful their call for superusers will enable a smooth transition.

Questions about the UEI and how you might get ahead of the curve and get yours? 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.

 

 

 

With modernization comes small business opportunities

On July 29, the Senate passed the Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies for Federal Procurement and Acquisitions (PRICE) Act to modernize the federal acquisition process and expand contracting opportunities for small businesses. This legislation encourages the execution of innovative new systems and procedures while allowing small businesses to grow their businesses through federal contracts. (Federal Soup August 2, 2021)

The objective of the Price Act is to address long-standing obstacles facing small businesses attempting to contract with the federal government.  The Act goes so far as to require federal agencies to report on how they plan to improve mission outcomes and increase small business participation in government contracting. (ibid)

The PRICE Act passage directly follows a white house objective to direct $100 billion toward small disadvantaged businesses by expanding federal contracting opportunities. (ibid)

Are you a woman, minority, veteran-owned, or small disadvantaged business with contracting questions or experiencing hurdles that are hard to overcome? Give us a call.