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)

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