Industry Reps Object to Contracting Rule

WASHINGTON (07/06/2000) - Industry organizations are calling for opposition to a proposed rule that would require federal contracting officers to take vendors' integrity into consideration when awarding contracts, even though agencies have revised the rule in response to earlier protests.

Last week the U.S. General Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA issued a proposed change to the Federal Acquisition Regulation "to clarify the existing requirement that federal contractors must have a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics." This is a revision of the July 1999 proposed rule, which drew more than 1,500 letters and responses.

Under the 1999 rule, contracting officers could consider information from the public about a company's noncompliance with labor laws, consumer protection laws or other regulations. Comments about the rule included concerns that the proposal seemed to allow contracting officers to give undue weight to unsubstantiated allegations.

The new proposal attempts to clarify the revision, but industry organizations such as the Coalition for Government Procurement are still encouraging their members to oppose the rule.

"Though modified from the previous blacklisting rule, the proposal would still allow contracting officers to withhold contract award from companies that had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing," the Coalition for Government Procurement warned in an alert to its members.

"The coalition feels.that small and large companies will be affected through increased certification requirements, delays in contract awards, the cost to defend against an improperly made [claims] and more," the alert states.

Other groups are concerned that the revision may just complicate matters when it comes to agencies buying technology.

"Rather than clarifying current law, [the revision] adds new layers of complication and risk and will hinder the government's ability to acquire state-of-the-art information technology," according to a statement from the Technology Coalition for Responsible Procurement. "We firmly believe that the proposed rule is unnecessary and counterproductive and should be withdrawn."

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