'Blacklisting' rule revoked

FAR Council rule

The FAR Council last week revoked the controversial rule that would have allowed contracting officers to ban vendors from competition if the companies did not meet certain ethical standards.

The new final rule — issued in the Dec. 27, 2001, Federal Register — fully overturns the so-called "blacklisting" rule, which is formally known as the contractor responsibility rule.

Under the original rule, contracting officers were to take into account any lawsuits or complaints filed against companies when considering them for a contract award, even if the actions had nothing to do with that particular competition.

The rule went into effect in January 2001, but the council in February asked agencies not to move forward. In April, the Bush administration put the rule on hold after the council received more than 1,800 comments. "The typical [Federal Acquisition Regulation] rule generates about 1 percent of that amount," according to the Federal Register notice.

"It was not clear to the FAR Council that the rule provided contracting officers with sufficient guidelines to prevent arbitrary or otherwise abusive implementation, or that the final rule was justified from a cost/benefit perspective," the notice states.

The revocation was a "great relief," partly because the FAR Council included an explanation showing the members understood why the rule was so misguided, said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division. ITAA represents more than 500 IT companies.

"It was good to see that this decision was based on common sense," she said.

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