There is no cost to register in SAM or other government contracting databases–but that hasn’t stopped some companies from charging would-be contractors hefty fees for assistance in the registration process. Some of these companies are out-and-out frauds, like the Tampa firm whose owner recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a FEMA registration scheme. And others, while not fraudulent, still often neglect to mention an important (but for them, inconvenient) fact: government contracts registration assistance is available for free through Procurement Technical Assistance Centers and other reputable sources.
Now, a bipartisan new Senate bill aims to get the word out about the free registration assistance available to prospective contractors.
The bill, titled the “Procurement Fraud Prevention Act,” was introduced by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) on April 25, 2017. Numbered “S.938” in the Senate’s numbering system, the bill’s stated purpose is simple: “To require notice of cost-free Federal procurement technical assistance in connection with registration of small business concerns in procurement systems.” The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Jack Reed (D-RI).
In an era of bloated legislative language, the operative text of the bill is blissfully brief. It states, in full:
The Administrator of General Services, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, shall establish procedures to ensure that any notice or direct communication regarding registration of a small business concern in a procurement system contains information about cost-free Federal procurement technical assistance services that are available through the Small Business Administration, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers of the Defense Logistics Agency, the Department of Commerce (including the Minority Business Development Agency), and other Federal agencies and programs.
The bill would require the for-pay operators of government contracts registration services to disclose that free registration assistance is available through PTACs and other resources. It’s an important step, because these entities–even the more legitimate ones–don’t exactly go out of their way to mention that their services can be obtained for free elsewhere. If you’re curious, Google “government contractor registration” (or something similar) and take a look at the for-pay results that pop up. Still hunting for that PTAC mention? Yeah, me too.
Would-be contractors ought to be able to make an informed decision about how best to pursue government contracts registration. In some cases, there may be a good reason to use a for-pay resource to assist in the process–but that choice should be made with full knowledge of the free alternatives available.
The Procurement Fraud Prevention Act has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. I hope that the Committee will take up this important bipartisan bill soon and move it to the full Senate for a vote. Stay tuned.