Vendor ethics rule hits brakes

Contractor responsibility rule

Federal agency contracting officers have received guidance telling them to put on hold a new rule that sets strong ground rules for a vendor's business ethics when it comes to making awards.

The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council issued a memorandum to agencies on Wednesday delaying implementation of the contractor responsibility rule until July 19.

According to the memo from council chairman Al Matera, "the effective date extension will allow the federal government and federal contractors sufficient time to meet the new obligations and responsibilities imposed by the final rule."

The memo also directs agency contracting officers to amend solicitations already issued that include the rule.

The rule, which is an amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, went into effect Jan. 19, just one day before President Bush took office, and contracting officers had already started incorporating it into requests for proposals released after Jan. 20.

Vendors have long opposed the rule, calling it the "blacklisting regulation." And the FAR Council, the overseer of the CAAC, received similar letters from industry and Congress requesting the extension to July 19, Matera wrote.

At the same time, Bush is considering revoking many mandates issued by the Clinton administration in its final days. There have been requests for a review of this rule from vendors and members of Congress, including a letter from Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the new chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, and Bush has included this rule among the others, according to an attorney in the General Services Administration's Office of the General Counsel.

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