Aug 9, 2018

By Wayne Simpson, CFCM, CSCM

Proposed Rule seeks public’s input, especially from government contractors.

The government has on occasion been accused of treating offerors and contractors unfairly, if not downright poorly.  Perhaps from time to time you even perceive being treated unfairly in the conduct of a procurement.  Sadly, we hear this all the time.  But now the government is considering the potential benefits of obtaining voluntary feedback surveys from the vendor community on a regular basis.

The Department of Defense (DoD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are considering an amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to establish a standard survey for obtaining voluntary feedback from actual and potential offerors on government contracts and solicitations.  They are seeking the public’s input, especially from government contractors, on a Proposed Rule published in the July 23, 2018, edition of the Federal Register.  Interested parties may submit written comments on or before September 21, 2018, in order to be considered in formulation of the proposed rule (see below for how to submit comments).  The Proposed Rule effects FAR Part 42, Contract Administration and Audit Services; and FAR Part 52, Solicitation Clauses and Provisions.

In 2015, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) issued guidance to test the use of a standard survey allowing offerors, whether or not they received an award, to rate the agency’s pre-award and debriefing process for specific solicitations.

Under the guidance issued at the time, interested offerors were invited, at their discretion, to rate and provide comments regarding the issuance of solicitations covering a wide range of requirements, including solicitations for information technology, medical equipment, and management support services.  Survey questions asked offerors for input regarding satisfaction with the pre-solicitation activities, solicitation documents, evaluation criteria, and the debriefing process.  The survey tool may be accessed at:  https://www.acquisition.gov/360.

Data from initial surveys was limited in scope, but some trends did emerge.  For example, contractors rated the robustness of agency debriefings with the lowest satisfaction scores in both iterations of the survey.  This informed OFPP’s education and outreach efforts in its memorandum, “Myth-busting 3, Further Improving Industry Communications with Effective Debriefings,” issued January 5, 2017.

OFPP, DoD, GSA, and NASA believe establishing a standard process in the FAR for obtaining voluntary feedback following a contract award will provide more meaningful insight on ways to strengthen the contracting process than can be derived by relying on ad hoc or periodic agency satisfaction surveys. Language is being considered to encourage contracting officers, in accordance with agency policy, to invite interested sources—actual and potential offerors—to provide feedback on various aspects of the pre-award acquisition process and debriefings, with a particular emphasis on how information is communicated.  Submissions are intended to be anonymous and for internal Government improvements only.  Voluntary participation would not bestow respondents any direct benefits or protections in the acquisition process or any subsequent protests. In addition, OFPP, DoD, GSA, and NASA are considering language encouraging Government acquisition officials to elicit feedback from their contractors on the agency’s performance of its contract administration responsibilities.

The Federal Register notice contains a request for respondents to offer their feedback on the Proposed Rule, including the underlying survey questions, and nine questions specifically included in the notice.  The survey is available online at:  https://www.acquisition.gov/360.

If you would like to comment on the Proposed Rule, you may use any of the following methods:

Via the Federal eRulemaking Portal

Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov) by entering “FAR Case 2017-014” under the heading “Enter Keyword or ID” and selecting “Search”. Select the link “Comment Now” that corresponds with “FAR Case 2017-014”. Follow the instructions provided on the screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and “FAR Case 2017-014” on your attached document.

Via U.S. Mail

U.S. General Services Administration
Regulatory Secretariat Division (MVCB)
1800 F Street NW, Second floor
Attn: Ms. Lois Mandell
Washington, DC 20405.

Instructions

Instructions: Please submit comments only and cite “FAR case 2017-014” in all correspondence related to this case. All comments received will be posted, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal and/or business confidential information provided. To confirm receipt of your comment(s), please check http://www.regulations.gov, approximately two to three days after submission to verify posting (except allow 30 days for posting of comments submitted by mail).

 

 

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About the Author:

Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after 38 years of federal service. He served as the Executive Assistant to VA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics where he was the primary staff advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary, who serves concurrently as VA’s Senior Procurement Executive and Debarring Official.

 

 

 

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