SBA Eliminates Use of Product Service Codes For Nonmanufacturer Rule Class Waivers

As January 5, 2022, SBA will no longer use Product Service Codes (PSCs) to classify products covered by class waivers for the nonmanufacturer rule. SBA’s rationale for discontinuing PSC’s to classify class waivers is to “improve consistency in the application of class waiver.” SBA will use North American Industry Classification System codes (NAICS) as its sole classification system to identify products covered by class waivers going forward. Notification of the change of SBA’s rule was published in the Federal Register on December 6, 2021.

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GAO Confirms that Novations Work: Agency Properly Recognized Buyer of Contract as Awardee

The Anti-Assignment Act (41 U.S.C. § 6305) prohibits the transfer of a government contract or interest in a government contract to a third party. However, government agencies recognized that contractors are on occasion bought, sold, merged, or simply encounter circumstances upon which it becomes desirable or necessary for them to assign a government contract to a third party.  

To address this issue, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provides for a novation process to give contractors a method to transfer government contracts and not run afoul of the prohibitions in the Anti-Assignment Act. The ultimate goal of the novation process is to successfully transfer the contract and have the government recognize a new contractor as the successor-in-interest to the transferred contract.

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The SBA Proposes New Rules to Help Small Businesses in Obtaining Past Performance

The SBA proposes to amend its regulations to implement new provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021 that provides small business contractors with new tools to establish past performance when bidding on prime contracts for Government procurements. The proposed rules would add two new methods for small businesses to obtain qualifying past performance. One proposed rule would allow a small business with no relevant past performance of its own to use the past performance of a joint venture in which it took part. The second proposed rule would require prime contractors to provide, to small businesses that served as a first-tier subcontractor, a record of the business’s past performance for use by the small business in future proposals.

The proposed rules are here.

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Indian Affairs Proposes Rules to Remove Barriers in Buy Indian Act Contracting Opportunities

The Department of the Interior (DOI) proposes to revise regulations implementing the Buy Indian Act, which provides the Department with authority to set aside procurement contracts for Indian-owned and controlled businesses. The proposed rule is to revise current procurement regulations that have created barriers to Indian Economic Enterprises (IEEs) from full participation in the DOI’s procurement process. The proposed rule is here.

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OHA: Provisions in Operating Agreements for SBA Set-Aside Program Participants can Sink Eligibility

The organizational documents for a business seeking certification under a SBA socio-economic program can play an important part in a company demonstrating its eligibility under the SBA’s requirement for control by the company’s owners, such as a service-disabled veteran or disadvantaged owner. Unlike some of the SBA’s requirements for eligibility, the manner in which a program applicant or participant might run afoul of this requirement are not always obvious. Typical provisions in the organizational documents that, under “non-SBA” circumstances may seem innocuous, may unintentionally undermine the disadvantaged owner’s requirement of showing of unconditional ownership and control. 

In a recent OHA decision regarding Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) eligibility, (CVE Protest of: Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc.  d/b/a RKE Contractors, Protester Re: E&L Construction Group, LLC), an unsuccessful bidder filed a protest of a set-aside contract award, alleging that the company was not unconditionally controlled by the disadvantaged owner. After considering a variety of arguments, OHA issued a decision based on a handful of provisions in the respondent’s operating agreement.

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GAO: Meaningful Discussions Must Disclose Proposal Weaknesses Discovered After a Corrective Action

Given the amount of competition in most solicitations, the ability of a contractor to receive feedback on its proposal can provide valuable information to help the contractor hone its response to best address the key factors sought by the agency in its solicitation. On those rare occasions when an agency reopens its solicitation and provides feedback to the individual offeror’s initial proposal, the contractor is provided such an opportunity–except when the contractor gets left out of the feedback party.

In a recent decision, an agency failed to disclose a flaw it first identified in its reevaluation of a contractor’s unchanged proposal after a corrective action. When the proposals were evaluated after the corrective action, the contractor ended up losing an award for which they were previously selected. As a result, the contractor filed a protest primarily asserting that, because the agency failed to provide feedback on its proposal, the agency’s evaluation of the proposal was unreasonable. GAO sustained the protest.

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GAO: Multiple Contracts With Single Agency May Increase Conflict Risk

As federal contractors begin to become engaged in multiple programs for a particular agency, the potential for the firm to encounter a situation where it finds itself involved in an organizational conflict of interest (OCI) may increase. This is particularly true with respect to “impaired objectivity” OCI, which is when a firm’s ability to render impartial advice to the government is or might be undermined by the firm’s competing interests. These OCIs often arise in service contracts where the contractor is placed in a position of evaluating its own performance on other contracts.  

In a recent case, GAO found that an agency’s award of a contract created an impermissible impaired objectivity OCI for a contractor from two different perspectives for services that the contractor provided in the capacity as both a prime and subcontractor for an agency. The case is Steel Point Solutions, LLC B-419709,B-419709.2 (July 07, 2021).

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