Agencies must share details about noncompetitive contracts

Acquisition officials have agreed on an interim rule that requires agencies to publicly disclose the justifications and approval documents related to contracts awarded without competition, according to a notice released Jan. 15.

Current regulations require agencies to defend their reasons for awarding a contract without a competition. However, as Congress required last year, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations System extended the requirements. They’re requiring agencies to post the documents with their justifications and the documents with oversight officials’ approvals on a governmentwide Web site, which the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) will select, according to the notice in the Federal Register.

The documents must be posted in two weeks of awarding the contract. If a noncompetitive contract is awarded under unusual and compelling urgency, the documents must be posted in a month of the award, the notice states.

The rule is based on a provision in the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in January 2008.

At a panel discussion on Jan. 15, Lesley Field, acting OFPP administrator, said Congress has been focused on transparency in contracting.  Officials say they expect the incoming Obama administration to continue that course. As the new administration arrives, officials must discuss how the transparency, contractor accountability and ethics rules should work in tandem, she said.

“This is just the beginning of the conversation,” Field said.

In another action, the councils revised the Federal Acquisition Regulation on reporting contract data into the Federal Procurement Data System. The rule requires contracting officers to verify the accuracy of contract award data prior to reporting the data in FPDS, according to a notice in the Federal Register on Jan. 15.

The rule establishes FPDS as the single authoritative source of all procurement data for a host of applications and reports, such as the Central Contractor Registration, the Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System, the Small Business Goaling Report, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act data, the notice states.

The rule does not require any reporting by the vendors, it adds.

Also, the councils adopted a final rule that amended the FAR to require agencies to use of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool when buying personal computers, such as desktop computers, laptops and computer monitors, the notice states.

EPEAT helps buyers evaluate computers from an environmental aspect. It provides a consistent set of performance criteria for products’ designs. Under EPEAT, manufactures can secure market recognition for their efforts to reduce harmful environmental effects of their products.

The General Services Administration has more than 10,000 "green" or environmentally friendly services and products, extending beyond computers and monitors, available for agencies to buy, said Tyree Varnado, acting commissioner for GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, during the panel discussion. Although companies currently self-certify their products as green, Varnado said GSA is working with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a consistent standard to define “green.”

Joanie Newhart, senior procurement executive at the Transportation Department, said her department is discussing “green procurements,” knowing that the Obama administration will make it a priority. With that in mind, DOT is moving ahead with initiatives before the administration even arrives, she said.

“We’re gearing up to be proactive,” she said in a panel discussion. “We don’t want them to tell us what to do. We want to come out and say, ‘Hey, look what we did.’"

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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