McAleese: Ethical do's and don'ts

A procurement process must encourage healthy competition.

Creating safe harbors of conduct among contractor and government personnel on major Defense Department information technology and architecture programs is critical to evolving from stovepiped legacy IT systems to DOD's transformational vision of network-centric warfare.

Although not exhaustive, this list serves as a useful tool for both government and contractor workers. Because every situation is unique, always consult with an attorney whenever an issue raises even the potential appearance of impropriety.

Some contractor do's:

Allow the government to test-drive products for reasonable periods of time during market surveys.

Respond to draft statements of work and requests for proposals to understand program requirements before solicitations are issued.

Subject to lobbying registration requirements, communicate freely with lawmakers on acquisition policies or programs.

Have systems in place that require company employees to comply with the highest ethical standards. Reprimand, terminate and self-disclose if failures are severe.

Contractor don'ts:

Offer gratuities to government employees.

Seek special favors or consideration directly or indirectly from government officials.

Seek source selection or proposal information during any competition.

Negotiate formal employment with government procurement officials, unless they fully disclosure that and recuse themselves from further personal and substantial involvement in the procurement process.

Government employee do's:

Except during competitions, recognize that contractors are part of the acquisition team and treat them transparently and equally.

Conduct market surveys for products and services to obtain data on commercial items' availability.

Request that multiple contractors assist in preparing specifications.

Request that contractors participate in government-sponsored acquisition conferences and workshops.

Become familiar with governmentwide ethics regulations or DOD's Joint Ethics Regulations.

Discuss acquisition policy issues publicly.

Government employee don'ts:

Provide source selection or proprietary proposal information to any contractor during any competition.

Retaliate or discriminate against a contractor who files a protest or claim against the government.

Negotiate employment with contractors without full disclosure and prompt recusal of oversight of that contractor's programs.

A fair procurement process must encourage healthy competition and reward technical innovation. Procurement improprieties, whether intentional or inadvertent, retard the ability to advance. They also trigger unfounded allegations of widespread cronyism or influence peddling.

McAleese is the principal of McAleese&Associates, a government contracting and national security law firm in McLean, Va. This is the second of a two-part commentary.

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