By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Past performance and the Professional Services Council

At a presentation on an acquisition panel at the Executive Leadership Conference last week, I urged that we make revitalizing the government's use of past performance in making buying decisions as a priority for those interested in improving the system.


The introduction of past performance criteria into the procurement system during the 90's has made the system work better, but past performance is underperforming, mostly because past performance report cards don't sufficiently differentiate between outstanding, acceptable, and poor performance. Past performance signals an emphasis on obtaining results from the procurement system, and, in the current environment, it embodies a good mixture of punishment for bad performance with reward for good performance -- the latter element being missing in action in the current fear-industry dominated procurement environment.


I have a number of ideas for how to revitalize past performance, but one of those I presented was to eliminate the provision in the FAR (which I signed on to as OFPP Administrator in 1995, against my better judgment at the time) that allows contractors to contest a negative report card one level above the report writer. This has had the effect of strongly discouraging honesty on the part of the government officials writing past performance report cards. In my view, this should be replaced just by an opportunity for the contractor to put their version of events into the past performance file.


I have urged this change, but had expected industry to oppose it.


So I was really pleasantly surprised when Stan Soloway of the Professional Services Council, which represents professional services/IT contractors and who was chairing the panel, came up to me afterwards to tell me that his organization had met recently with congressional staff and, among other things, urged a revitalization of the past performance system. Stan said he was personally open to streamlining the rules to make the process less burdensome on contracting officers (including removing the current appeals process), provided contractors were assured the opportunity to present their version of events in the past performance report card file.


This is really good news. It is consistent with PSC's ongoing support for a strong system of contract management, and a sufficiently staffed government contracting officer corps. It isn't in the interest of responsible firms to have failed contracts. Good for PSC! 


What do you think? Paste a comment in the box below (registration required) or send your comment to letters@fcw.com (subject line: Blog comment) and we'll post it.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Oct 31, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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