New acquisition rules to target phony technology products

Regulators are developing new rules to ensure that agencies buy only genuine products

Regulators are still considering ways to ensure that agencies buy quality information technology products and avoid phony ones.

The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council today announced another public meeting to talk with industry representatives about the effects of counterfeit IT products on areas such as performance and security, according to a Federal Register notice.

The meeting is set for Aug. 13, starting at 9 a.m. at the General Services Administration's headquarters in Washington.

Officials are in the early stages of developing new rules to get assurances that agencies aren’t buying counterfeit products. Since the first public meeting on the topic in December, regulators have considered how best to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to require contractors selling IT products, such as computer hardware and software, to prove that their products are authentic.

Some government officials speaking at previous meetings said buying a quality product is more important than getting the lowest price. A senior procurement policy official at the first meeting said she was surprised to hear that contracting officers believed they should award a contract to the lowest bidder to save money instead of finding the best value for a product.

The FAR gives civilian agencies broad discretion in making decisions based on price or other best-value parameters, such as the company’s experience and management capabilities. But government and industry experts say acquisition workers are concerned about making a mistake and paying for it with a career-ending embarrassment. With the current emphasis on curbing waste and abuse, experts say contracting officers often choose the vendor with the lowest price.

At the Aug. 13 meeting, the councils are particularly interested in hearing how industry can maintain the integrity of the supply chain while still giving the government fair prices and maintaining a variety of reliable contractors, the notice states.

In previous meetings, some people have proposed trade associations policing their member companies or offering some certification that can be audited. The certifications could give the government a uniform and reasonable assurance that the IT products and their parts aren’t counterfeits.

Officials are also interested in other areas such as contractor liability and consequential damages and the competition aspects of purchasing IT products from the original manufacturer or authorized dealers.

About the Author

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

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