Friday, May 6, 2011

Responsibility Determinations - Integrity

Before awarding any contract, the contracting officer must make an affirmative determination of responsibility with respect to the prospective contractor. FAR 9-104-1 contains seven standards that a contracting officer must address in making the determination. Today we discuss the fourth standard; integrity and business ethics.

The fourth standard simply states that prospective contractors must have a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics. Generally, the contracting officer will rely on information readily available in its files and Government databases  and the various certification requirements that prospective contractors must sign. FAR 52.213-3 requires a number of certifications regarding integrity matters that prospective contractors must complete for every contract over the simplified acquisition threshold (currently $150 thousand).

These certifications include representations that the contractor and its principals
  • Are not presently debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment or declared ineligible for the award of contracts by any Federal agency.
  • Have not, within a three-year period preceding this offer, been convicted of or had a civil judgment rendered against them for: commission of fraud or a criminal offense in connection with obtaining, attempting to obtain, or performing a Federal, state or local government contract or subcontract; violation of Federal or state antitrust statutes relating to the submission of offers; or commission of embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction or records, making false statements, tax evasion, violating Federal criminal tax laws or receiving stolen property.
  • Are not presently indicted for, or otherwise criminally or civilly charged by a Government entity with, commission of any of these offenses enumerated above.
  • Have not, within a three-year period preceding this offer, been notified of any delinquent Federal taxes in an amount that exceeds $3 thousand for which the liability remains unsatisfied.
Contractors that cannot certify to these matters, need to provide explanations to the contracting officer so that an assessment can be made regarding its significance to the solicitation in question. Prospective contractors are not automatically disqualified, they'll just have to submit more paperwork. Contractors that submit false certifications, face potentially greater sanctions. The Government's databases are getting better, more comprehensive, and commonly shared among Agencies. The chances of flying under the radar when a company has "issues" (e.g. income tax liens) is very slim these days.

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