On July 15, 2009 the Office of the United States Trade Representative issued a determination regarding a waiver of discriminatory purchasing requirements with respect to the goods and services of Taiwan.
Taiwan, a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2008, submitted its instrument of accession to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) committee on June 15, 2009 and was subsequently approved. Now that Taiwan is a member of the GPA, any previous Trade Agreements Act prohibitions have been lifted.
An excerpt from from the Federal Register reads, “In accordance with section 301(b)(1) of the Trade Agreements Act, Taiwan (known in the WTO as Chinese Taipei) is so designated for the purpose of section 301(a) of the Trade Agreements Act.
If all the above regulatory and legal jargon is confusing, I have attached the notice from the Federal Register for your reading pleasure: Federal Register Notice
For a full listing of Trade Agreements Act designated countries, refer to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 25.003.
Funds, Work and Opportunities in Greater Washington – Stimulus funding is being felt here first. This conference is designed to provide detailed guidance for applying for funds and complying with the substantial regulations and requirements. Program Highlights:
- Expectations and Opportunities Associated with Stimulus Funding
- Department of Energy: Renewables, Weatherization, Energy Efficiency, Research and More
- GSA Stimulus Plans: The Implications for Greater Washington’s Federal Buildings
- The Regional Leaders on Stimulus – convenes the regional representatives for the stimulus
- Transportation Stimulus Plans
- Getting the Work and Understanding the Rules. (1) The application process and winning contracts. Special emphasis on GSA schedules, subcontracting and other procurement details. (2) Insights into the risks and responsibilities that accompany stimulus work including: new regulations, comprehensive reporting and compliance requirements and the implications of “Buy American.”
Breakout Sessions will further explore the stimulus opportunities and implications for specific industries. Guest speakers and panelists include: Edward DeSeve, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Implementation; Paul Prouty, Acting Administrator, General Services Administration (GSA); Hope Lane, Officer, Aronson & Company; and more.
Click here for more information and registration.
When: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:00am – 3:00pm
Where: National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20045
Suggested Dress: Business Attire
Cost: $295 for non-members; $195 for members of the Greater Washington Board of Trade
The Federal “IT Dashboard” (http://it.usaspending.gov) provides the public a new window into the U.S. Federal IT Investments Portfolio. This new tool is already having a multi-million dollar impact on agency spending, as shown in this quote published 7/17/09 on the Federal IT Dashboard blog:
“Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), under the leadership of Secretary Shinseki and VA CIO Roger Baker, announced that it will temporarily halt 45 IT projects which are either behind schedule or over budget and work to determine whether these programs should be continued. We’re not talking about a trivial sum here-the Fiscal Year 2009 combined budget for the 45 projects is approximately $200 million. The worst offender of the bunch was 110% over budget and 17 months behind schedule. We were able to catch these contracts, in part, thanks to our new tool, the “IT Dashboard” which helped shed light on the performance of projects across the federal government.”
So what is the IT Dashboard? It is a new, one-stop clearinghouse of information that allows anyone with a web browser to track federal IT initiatives and hold the government accountable for progress and results. A part of USASpending.gov, the dashboard allows the public to see what IT projects are working and on-schedule (and which are not), offer alternative approaches, and provide direct feedback to the chief information officers (CIOs) at federal agencies – in effect, keeping tabs on the people who are responsible for taxpayer dollars for technology. Until July 31, CIOs can submit investment evaluations and update other investment data. During this time, the site will continue to be in “beta” as additional key features are added. For a tutorial click here – the 8 minute screencast demonstrates how to use the analysis tools of USASpending.gov’s IT Dashboard.
It will now be easier than ever for poor past performance to come back to haunt a GSA Schedule or GWAC contractor. That is because Contracting Officers are now required to document the performance of contractors that perform GSA Schedule or GWAC task orders. The new rule published in the July 1, 2009 Federal Register, mandates performance evaluations for all GSA Schedule or GWAC task orders that exceed the $100,000.
The FAR has long required that Contracting Officers prepare performance evaluations for contracts and to utilize past performance as an evaluation criteria. Toward that end, the Government deployed a “Past Performance Information Retrieval System” (PPIRS) designed to be a government-wide shared repository of contractor past performance data. However, due in part to staffing shortages and other priorities, PPIRS has only been use sporadically. In fact, for GFYs 2006 & 2007, GAO found that only about 31% of the past performance information that should have been on PPIRS was actually there. The new rule is stronger in that it specifically requires the use of PPIRS and explicitly states that performance evaluations must be prepared for GSA schedule or GWAC task orders.
Agencies will be able to design their own evaluation content but the evaluation must document compliance with the small business subcontracting plan. The performance evaluations will be available to agency officials for 3 years, (6 years for Construction or A&E). After that the evaluation will be archived.
Reporting “Unsatisfactory” Government Employees
(GCA Report Editor’s note. In our opinion, the following represents an unfortunate development where ACOs and COs are put on notice that DCAA may refer them to the Inspector General when they fail to support a DCAA opinion, which is supposed, to be advisory only.)
The Defense Contract Audit Agency issued guidance to its auditors to report “unsatisfactory conditions” related to government officials directly to the DOD IG rather than elevating concerns through normal chain of command. The guidance states such conditions include actions “that appear to reflect mismanagement, a failure to comply with specific regulatory requirements or gross negligence in the official’s responsibility that result in substantial harm to the government or tax payers or that frustrate public policy.” The guidance cites examples such as (1) excluding DCAA from performing or completing an audit to avoid a negative opinion or (2) a CO ignores a DCAA audit report and takes an action that awards a contractor unreasonable or excessive costs or profit. This special reporting is supposed to apply to the “most significant and sensitive issues” whereas less sensitive issues are to be handled at the local level and then up the chain of command. The guidance reminds auditors that they are to continue reporting “suspected irregular conduct” by completing their DCAAF 2000 referral form rather than pursuing the unsatisfactory condition route (09-FAS-004(R)).
Approving and Rescinding Direct Bill Privileges
Auditors are instructed to ensure that major contractors with billing systems that have been approved for direct billing have not significantly modified their system since the latest report opining an adequate billing system. Continue reading »
On July 8, 2009, Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano announced that it will require certain federal contractors to utilize the E-Verify system to electronically verify all new employees and other current employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. The rule will apply to federal solicitations and contract awards Government-wide starting September 8, 2009.
“E-Verify is a smart, simple and effective tool that reflects our continued commitment to working with employers to maintain a legal workforce,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Requiring those who seek federal contracts to use this system will create a more reliable and legal workforce. The rule complements our Department’s continued efforts to strengthen immigration law enforcement and protect critical employment opportunities. As Senator Schumer and others have recognized, we need to continue to work to improve E-Verify, and we will.”
The final FAR ruling was issued in November 2008, but delayed four times by the Obama Administration to allow DHS to review the final rule. In April the Customer Satisfaction Index Survey of the E-Verify system scored 83 out of 100 points exceeding the government’s satisfaction index of 69. This as well as new system enhancements have led to the full implementation of the system.
Click here to read more about e-Verify in our previous postings or, for more information on E-Verify, contact Nicole Mitchell at 301.222.8231.
The Government expects to spend a significant amount of the Stimulus funds though GSA schedule contracts. Toward that end, on June 16, 2009 GSA issued mass modification FX 75. FX 75, which is applicable to all GSA schedule contracts, is designed to make the schedule contract “stimulus ready”. The modification is optional so the contractor can decline it. However, if the contractor does not accept it, the contractor will not be able to accept any orders that are funded, in full or in part, with Recovery Act (Stimulus) funds. In fact, effective July 2, 2009 E-Buy will not allow contractors that haven’t accepted this modification to access solicitations for opportunities funded by Recovery Act funds. Continue reading »
In addition to the prime contract information described in Wednesday’s blog post, Recovery Act prime contractors must also report on their subcontracting activity. As with the prime contract data, the subcontractor information is due on the 1oth day after the end of the calendar quarter. The subcontractor data must be reported using the tool available at http://www.federalreporting.gov/. For more information on the schedule and reporting tool please see Aronson’s previous blog posting.
This blog post will describe what information is to be reported, when the reports are due, and how the reports are to be submitted. The post will conclude with a few reporting tips for the stimulus contractor. Continue reading »
Contracts funded with stimulus dollars will be subject to more oversight than any other spending in U.S. Government history. Transparency is the catch phrase and almost anybody, including citizens, employees, whistleblowers, contracting officers, inspector generals, and auditors, will have the the opportunity to monitor stimulus spending for fraud, waste and abuse.
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board has been established to oversee the oversight. The RAT board, staffed primarily with agency Inspector Generals, is tasked to conduct oversight of Recovery Act funds to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. The RAT board has the authority to audit the spending of Recovery Act funds. The RAT board also has the authority to order agency IGs to either conduct or refrain from conducting investigations. Significantly, the RAT Board has subpoena power for both documents and individuals and can conduct public hearings. Continue reading »
What We Are Writing
- A Marriage of Inconvenience: GSA Schedule Contracts & The Contractor Code of Business Ethics & Conduct Clause
- Emerging Small Businesses: To Grow Your Business, You Must Plan For Growth
- Government Contracting: Look Before You Leap!
- GSA Schedules – Strategies for Success
- New Employee vs. Independent Contractor Considerations
- Pay on Display – Understanding the Executive Compensation and Subcontractor Data Reporting Requirements & Ramifications
- The GSA Schedule: Your Ticket to the Federal Market (May 2010)
- The New FAR Codes of Conduct and Compliance Program Provisions
- The Seven Deadly Sins (of contract compliance)