If you’re in government contracting, you have to believe (or at least hope) that the federal procurement system regularly tries to meet the goals of fairness and transparency and true competition. I truly believe in the fundamentals of our procurement system and recently taught a webinar on FAR Part 6 — Competition. But the reality for those of us who have been around federal contracting for any extended period of time is that we can tell war stories of how the system was far from fair and about as transparent as a brick wall at times.
I recently saw a program that was embedded in the small business community for more than 2 decades be “transformed” into a cooperative agreement grant opportunity under the guise that contracts aren’t flexible enough and “change is good”. If you read any of my posts or follow me, you’ll know that I am a huge believer in change as part of growth and that a stagnant organization is a dead one so I’m not faulting a need or want for change. The issue with this activity was the manner in which that change was effectuated and a lack of competitive fairness to play in the game.
What was so unfair here?
1) The winning organization didn’t have any actual personnel to perform on the project, ads were placed for key positions the day after the organization won the grant.
2) The winning organization literally told the incumbent that the work they did was a “black hole” to them.
3) The work was moved from small business to a no-fee allowed grant which essentially blocked out any small business from trying to bid for the work.
4) Political agendas were pushed, and true options and discussions weren’t allowed.
What can be done?
1) Close an apparent loophole that allows agencies to move programs from a contract to a cooperative agreement without a posted justification or market survey, essentially locking small business out.
2) Provide for protest relief for cooperative agreement grant solicitations.
3) Ensure that even cooperative agreement grants have some semblance of a statement of work.
The pendulum of competition has moved back to a less competitive environment in the past few years. No system can ever be infallible and will always be subjected to individuals who have their own agendas. We need to be sure that we maintain competition and fairness to the greatest extent possible or it’s like you’re playing craps with a set of dice loaded in favor of the house.
Tell your stories of #FARPart6Fails in the comments below.