Officials demand contractor identification

The Obama administration wants contracting officers to avoid using generic contractor identifiers in their records as part of an effort to improve the government’s procurement data.

Contracting companies are known in federal acquisition records by their specific Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) numbers.

However, “the practice of using generic DUNS numbers adversely affects the transparency of the government’s data,” such as the information that is fed into, procurement regulators wrote in a new Federal Register notice published Nov. 29.

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The generic identifier also hinders contractors from accessing their own information and keeping up with their own reporting requirements, such as reports on subcontracts. When there’s a simple generic DUNS number, the contract is not associated with the contractor.

Officials are telling contracting officers to limit their use of a generic identifier to those contract actions where it’s the only option. They proposed a rule intending to restrict the use to foreign contracts worth less than $25,000, according to the notice.

If an agency used a generic number, the proposal would require contracting officers to include a written determination in a contract’s file to explain why they weren't more specific.

Officials have also proposed that the same DUNS number remains throughout the life of a contract, with a company telling the agency of any changes within a month’s time.

It’s proposed that the chief acquisition officer of each agency would have to submit an annual certified data report on what the agency filed into the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) within 120 days after the end of each fiscal year.

The proposal also clarified that it’s the contracting officer’s responsibility to complete rather than simply submit the contract action report, which updates information in FPDS, and that the report isn’t complete if there’s an error.

In the proposal, officials placed on the contractor's shoulders the responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the data in the Central Contractor Registration. A company would be responsible for any liability resulting from the government's reliance on inaccurate or incomplete data.

Officials are accepting comments on the proposal through Jan. 30.

About the Author

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

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