Congratulations! After a hard
bidding process, your company has earned an award. But though this award process
might’ve been long and tough, potential issues are still ahead.
In our practice, we often hear stories of soured relationships with the government during contract performance. Adverse performance issues can come at a hefty cost—in terms of money, time, and reputation.
Here are some suggestions to help guard against performance disputes with the government.
The Contract Disputes Act requires a contractor to present a claim to the contracting officer “within 6 years after the accrual of the claim.” 41 U.S.C. 7103(a)(4)(A). But a claim doesn’t typically accrue until the contractor should have known that it was damaged by the Government.
As discussed below, some legal claims might not arise until a contractor takes discovery in an appeal already before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals.
Although a lease may be a “contract” in common parlance, does a lease qualify as a contract under the Contract Disputes Act?
The answer is important, because the Contract Disputes Act provides jurisdiction for the Court of Federal Claims and Board of Contract Appeals to decide challenges to contracting officers’ final decisions. If a lease isn’t a contract under the Contract Disputes Act, government lessors could be in a bind.
The United States Court of Federal Claims recently decided the issue–and came down on the side of lessors, at least under the facts at hand.
A contractor could not file a valid bid protest challenging an agency’s decision to terminate the contractor’s task order, according to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
In a recent decision, the Court agreed with the GAO, which also held that the contractor’s challenge involved a matter of contract administration–something outside the bid protest process.
When issues arise in performance of a federal contract, a contractor may seek redress from the government by filing a claim with the contracting officer. However, commencing such a claim may result in an exercise of patience and waiting by the contractor.
The Contract Disputes Act, as a jurisdictional hurdle for claims over $100,000, requires a contractor to submit a “certified claim” to the agency. The CDA also requires the contracting officer, within sixty days of receipt of a certified claim, to issue a decision on that claim or notify the contractor of the time within which the decision will be issued.
That second part of the equation can lead to some frustration on the part of contractors. As seen in a recent Civilian Board of Contract Appeals decision, a contracting officer may, in an appropriate case, extend the ordinary 60-day time frame by several months.
The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals can order an agency to “speed up” its decision on a certified claim if the contracting officer’s anticipated time frame is unreasonably slow.
In a recent case, the ASBCA ordered a contracting officer to issue a decision approximately eight weeks earlier than the contracting officer planned to do so. The ASBCA’s decision highlights a little-known provision of the Contract Disputes Act, which entitles a contractor to request that an appropriate tribunal order an agency to hasten its decision on a claim.
A contractor did not file a proper certified claim because the purported “signature” on the mandatory certification was typewritten in Lucinda Handwriting font.
A recent decision of the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals highlights the importance of providing a fully-compliant certification in connection with all claims over $100,000–which includes, according to the ASBCA, the requirement for a verifiable signature.