Performance information (adjectival ratings and supporting narratives) about contractors' work on previously awarded contracts is used by the Government for future source selection purposes. The "Past Performance Assessments" cover such aspects as
- conforming to requirements and to standards of good workmanship
- forecasting or controlling costs
- adherence to schedules, including the administrative aspects of performance
- reasonable and cooperative behavior and commitment to customer satisfaction
- reporting into databases and reporting requirements in the solicitation provisions and clauses referenced
- integrity and business ethics, and
- business-like concern for the interest of the customer.
It is federal procurement policy for the contracting officer to prepare past performance appraisals at least annually and also, at the end of the contract (see FAR 42.1502). These assessments are posted to CPARS (Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System) and are then available for just about anyone working in Government procurement to lookup and review.
For contractors, it is important that past performance data be prepared timely and made available for contractor selection and award purposes - especially for ratings of "exceptional" or "very good". Exceptional means that performance meets contractual requirements and exceeds many to the Government's benefit. Its good to go the extra mile and get noticed. The Government relies on this information to make best value source selection decisions.
The Government monitors contracting officer compliance with the Past Performance reporting requirements. The Department of Defense recently published departmental compliance statistics that show a compliance rate of 83 percent for the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2015 against a goal of 100 percent. Although slightly improving from the previous quarter, there is still need for improvement.
Contractors usually benefit by having past performance ratings on file. Contractors that don't receive them, should ask their contracting officers to prepare them.
You can read DoD's latest summary here.