GAO: USDA Improperly Awarded $141 Million Sole Source Contract

The U.S. Department of Agriculture improperly awarded a $141 million sole source contract in exchange for the contractor’s agreement to withdraw a GAO bid protest.

According to a recent GAO bid protest decision, the award violated the Competition in Contracting Act, which does not permit an agency to award a sole source contract in exchange for a contractor’s promise to terminate litigation against the agency.

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Contractor Misrepresented VOSB Status For $152 Million Lease, Says VA OIG

The VA failed to verify the accuracy of a contractor’s representation that it was a veteran-owned small business, according to a new report issued by the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

According to the VA OIG, the VA failed to verify the claim of Westar Development Company, LLC to be a VOSB–and “[t]he evidence does not support a finding that Westar is or ever has been a Veteran-Owned Small Business.”   The VA’s failure to verify Westar’s VOSB status is just one of many serious flaws identified by the VA OIG in its audit of the award of a major VA lease to Westar.

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8(a) Fraud: Contractor Fraudulently Obtained $52 Million, Says DOJ

A Maryland man has pleaded guilty in an 8(a) fraud case involving a company that received more than $52 million in 8(a) contracts to which it was not entitled.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Vernon Smith pleaded guilty to charges that he (not the company’ s disadvantaged majority owner) exercised complete control over the company’s day-to-day management and long term decision making.

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8(a) Program Mentor To Pay $928,000 False Claims Act Settlement

An 8(a) Program mentor has agreed to pay a False Claims Act settlement of $928,000.  The settlement stems from the government’s claims that the mentor abused the 8(a) mentor-protege program.

According to a Department of Justice press release, the mentor firm performed eight 8(a) prime contracts on behalf of its protege–without an SBA-approved joint venture.  The government also contended that the mentor’s extensive role resulted in the protege firm failing to meet the applicable limitation on subcontracting.

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Thank you, APTAC!

I am back in Lawrence after a trip to San Francisco, where I had the pleasure of presenting a session on government contracting ethics at the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers Spring Conference.

It was great to spend a little time in the City by the Bay and to see so many familiar faces at the APTAC Spring Conference.  A big “thank you” to Becky Peterson and the APTAC leadership for inviting me to participate in the Spring Conference.  And of course, extra thanks to the PTAC counselors who attended the session, asked great questions, and refrained from all but a few minor digs at the tragic end of Duke’s basketball season.

If you are a small government contractor and haven’t made contact with your local PTAC counselors yet, what are you waiting for? PTAC counselors offer a wide variety of services for small contractors, often free of charge.  Visit the APTAC website to learn more.

GAO: Price Revisions Allowed In FPRs Unless Expressly Limited

According to the GAO, an offeror may revise its price as part of a final proposal revision, unless the procuring agency expressly limits the scope of proposal revisions.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that the agency properly accepted the awardee’s revised price because agency had not limited the scope of discussions so as to exclude price revisions.

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Small Business Regulations: A Wall Street Journal Live Online Discussion

Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you are reading this), the Wall Street Journal will host a live online discussion about the impact of regulations on small business.  I will be a panelist, along with SBA’s ombudsman Brian Castro and small business advocate Melinda Emerson.

The live discussion begins at 3:00 Eastern on Thursday, March 27.  To join in, simply follow this link.  See you there!