Friday, November 16, 2018

Contractor Responsibility Determinations

The Government will award contracts to responsible prospective contractors only and no award can be made unless the contracting officer makes an affirmative determination of responsibility (see FAR 9.103(a) and (b)). Why is contractor "responsibility" so important? Because the award of a contract to a supplier based on lowest evaluated price alone can be false economy if there is a subsequent default, later deliveries, or other unsatisfactory performance resulting in additional contractual or administrative costs (see FAR 9.103(c)).

When making responsibility determinations, contracting officers can and will consider a number of sources of information about bidders and/or offerors. The common sources of information alread collected and readily available to the contracting officer includes the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), System for Award Management (SAM), and Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS).

Information in FAPIIS will identify affiliates, immediate owners, subsidiaries, and predecessors that have held previous Government contracts. It contains comments on how the contractor (or subcontractor) performed on previous contracts and whether there has been any administrative actions such as debarment or suspension. It contains information regarding criminal or civil proceedings, terminations for default or cause, and determinations of non-responsibility because the contractor does not have a satisfactory performance record or a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics.

In addition to consulting the FAPIIS, contracting officers, when making responsibility determinations have other sources of information to help make those determinations. These include

  • Records and experience data, including verifiable knowledge of personnel with the contracting office, audit offices, contract administration offices and other contracting officers. In other words, contracting officer will often query those around them for whatever information they might hold on a particular contractor or offeror.
  • The prospective contractor - including bid or proposal information, questionnaire replies, financial data, information on production equipment and personnel information.
  • Commercial sources of supplier information of a type offered to buyers in the private sector.
  • Preaward survey reports - usually performed by DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) or DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) - including accounting system adequacy and financial capability reviews.
  • Other sources such as publications, suppliers, subcontractors, and customers of the prospective contractor, financial institutions, Government agencies, and business and trade associations.
Contractors and prospective contractors should never underestimate the impact of negative information or a negative perception by someone within the Government. Sometimes all it takes is an off-hand comment bubbling up to the contracting officer to influence award decisions.

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