OFPP trying to solve major vendor data inconsistency

Friday - 7/20/2012, 2:20pm EDT

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy wants to know how best to solve the inconsistent way vendors enter information into federal acquisition systems.

OFPP issued a request for comments on whether changing that approach would give contracting officers more insight into the ethical behavior of companies. Contracting officers are supposed to find data related to a vendors' ethical behavior in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).

The problem stems from the requirement under the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) for each of a vendor's physical location or address to have a separate DUNS number. The government, in turn, doesn't associate all DUNS numbers with a single company. So if one part of Company X violates an environmental or employment law, that information doesn't necessarily come up when contracting officers do research on past performance for another part of the company.

"Some interested stakeholders recommend that changes be made to the government's policies, practices and systems, as necessary, to enhance the contracting officers' ability to review relevant information, both from different locations at which the named entity is doing business and from other affiliates and subsidiaries," OFPP wrote in its request for comment issued July 18. "OFPP has initiated an effort to evaluate the benefits and costs associated with making these policy and practice changes, and is issuing this notice to elicit feedback that can be used to help in evaluating whether changes might be considered."

Vendors should keep close eye on changes

Justin Ganderson and Jay Carey, attorneys with McKenna Long and Aldridge's government contracts practice, wrote in a blog post that vendors should keep a close eye on these changes to FAPIIS.

"The government's stated purpose in considering whether to collect such information is to use it in making responsibility determinations, and the additional information most likely would be made available to the public," the lawyers wrote. "While past performance information is not made public, other FAPIIS information generally is made public unless a contractor successfully argues that it is subject to a FOIA exemption."

OFPP wants input on seven specific areas, including whether current data-collection policies and practices work, and if not how they could be improved.

"What policy or other guidance changes should be considered (if any) to further assist agency personnel in determining what information is relevant to making a responsibility determination?" OFPP asked.

It also wants to know if more information is needed and how should agencies get that data. For example, should agencies collect that information through third parties, or should they require contractors to report potential unethical or unlawful behavior through their DUNS number?

Comments are due to OFPP by Sept. 17.

Along with OFPP's request for comment, the General Services Administration issued a sources-sought notice dealing with how contractors are identified. And the Defense Department is evaluating how it can better understand the organization of its suppliers as part of an effort to implement business tools that require identification of supplier relationships to facilitate better buying decisions.

DoD held a public meeting in November looking at developing a method by which offerors, if owned or controlled by another business entity, can identify to DoD the Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code and legal name of that business entity.

RELATED STORIES:

Contractor integrity, performance to face higher level of scrutiny

Vendors must report 'credible' violations of contract law