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PROCUREMENT COLLUSION STRIKE FORCE FOCUSES ON GOVCON & CRIMINAL PENALTIES

The Department of Justice’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force, formed last year to increase contract compliance reviews, continues to expand its effortsAny company with sizeable government business should take notice, not just for the task force’s actions, but for its focus on criminal prosecution under the False Claims Act.  Most enforcement actions have traditionally been undertaken by the Civil Division of DOJ.  As a result, penalties against individuals or companies caught violating rules include fines and potential suspension or debarment.  These are strong penalties in and of themselves, but do not ultimately compare to criminal penalties that can seriously harm a corporate reputation and land individuals in a real prison, not just suspension and debarment jail.  Attorney Michael Volkov, writing in JD Supra, points out: “Last year, the Antitrust Division unveiled its important compliance guidance, Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs in Criminal Antitrust Investigations.  Companies involved in public procurement should adopt and implement robust corporate compliance programs.”  It may also be a best practice to read the DOJ report to ensure that those programs feature components recommended by the agency.  Approximately one-third of the task force’s open criminal investigations involve government procurement.  Such actions could cost contractors millions in fines, legal fees, lost business, and damaged reputations.  Compliance is something that few people like to talk about, but it is most definitely the “ounce of prevention” that can protect both you and your company

UPDATE YOUR GSA ADVANTAGE CATALOG & PRICE LISTS BY OCT 31st!

GSA issued an update last week on related to its Schedules consolidation process reminding contractors that their GSA Advantage catalogs and price lists must be updated BY October 31st.  

This is despite reports that some acquisition offices are already overwhelmed with consolidation and end-of-year work.   

Regardless, contractors that do not update their price lists and catalogs may have their information removed from GSA websites. 

CONTRACTORS FACE BRAVE NEW WORLD ON SUPPLY CHAIN VETTING AND INFO SHARING

Your company, an established government contractor, is approached by a new company with a potentially great technology solution.  Does it, though, present a supply chain risk that federal customers can’t use?  You think it might and provide a new government supply chain review board information.  It turns out, though, that the company is legit.  They’re now suing you, though, because you reported them as a potential risk.  Sound like we’re jumping ahead to Halloween?  Not really.  This is exactly the scenario government contractors could find themselves in when trying to navigate the government’s changing secure supply chain rules.  A new interim rule, created by the passage of the Federal Acquisition Supply Chain Security Act of 2018, gives the government a variety of tools to exclude an inappropriate company from contracting with the federal government if there is a potential supply chain risk.  Similarly, government contractors are encouraged to share information on potential secure supply chain risks, including information on problematic companies.  Contractors may, however, face lawsuits or other legal action if the information doesn’t pan out.  Talk about a Catch 22.  Federal contractors have to be increasingly careful about the partners they use in their federal supply chains, but also must take care to make judgements only on well-founded information.  Someone once said that government business is not a “go it alone” proposition.  This is indeed the case here. Make sure your firm works with outside legal and other help to navigate these increasingly tricky waters.

GSA PROMOTING ITS OWN “MARKET RESEARCH AS A SERVICE” SOLUTION

One perennial customer crack, unfair we think, against GSA is “what do we get for our money?” when paying contract access fees.  While Allen Federal believes it should be obvious that customer agencies get a great deal from GSA in terms of vetting contractors and establishing popular acquisition vehicles, the agency is nevertheless adding a new feature to help its customers more easily find contractors that meet specific needs.   The “Market Research-As-a-Service, or “MRAS”, feature will leverage existing GSA research and analytics to assist customer agencies in developing an appropriate acquisition approach and potential contractors that can meet their needs.  MRAS personnel will help customer agencies define and identify suppliers and contracts, research and identify supplier capabilities, access existing market reports, and assist with a comprehensive market plan that includes contract suggestions and socio-economics considerations.  All of these services will be provided at no cost to GSA customer agencies.  MRAS will function differently than GSA’s fee-for-service assisted acquisition offices, which perform many of these same functions, but also manage actual procurements.  Just as with assisted acquisition offices, though, contractors will want to establish relationships with MRAS providers. Working with GSA to meet customer needs is already a proven best practice.  Ensuring that this office has the latest information not only on individual company capabilities, but also on market trends, examples of previously successful acquisition approaches and more, will be critical to ensuring that GSA’s MRAS office has the information it needs to be successful.  Also, never forget that relationships matter in acquisition just as much a process knowledge.  Contractors should get to know MRAS just as customer agencies will

EXPECT MORE GUIDANCE ON COVERED TELECOM & IT

The FAR Council has already issued one clarification to its initial Interim Rule prohibiting companies that do business with the government from using covered IT and telecommunications anywhere in their business.  The new rule, published in late August, clarifies that companies certifying that they do not use such covered equipment must only do so on an annual basis, not in response to each bid.  More guidance is expected to come.  Contractors should not confuse this guidance, though, with a removal of the requirement to get rid of or not acquire covered IT and telecommunications gear from a host of Chinese companies.  Companies are absolutely expected to comply with the requirement.  No Huawei, ZTE or other related equipment can be used by companies wishing to do business with the government, regardless of whether that equipment is used in support of the execution of a government contract.  Be on the lookout, though, for more regulatory changes on this topic.