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Friday, August 7, 2020

Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program Certification Process Changes




"SBA"

"New ED/WOSB certification rules take effect Oct 15th, 2020. 

Read this FAQ on the changes and then visit beta.certify.SBA.gov to submit your initial application. 

The new site makes it easy for you to understand the changes to the certification process to ensure you remain eligible.

Becoming certified for the WOSB Federal Contracting Program means your business is eligible to compete for contracts that are set aside for WOSBs and economically disadvantaged WOSBs and sole-source federal contracts within eligible industries. 

New WOSB Federal Contracting Program regulations were published in the Federal Register on May 11, 2020, detailing changes to the certification process. DON’T MISS OUT! 

Starting July 15, visit beta.certify.SBA.gov to submit your initial application. The new site makes it easy for you to understand the changes to the certification process to ensure you remain eligible. 

On the homepage, you can: 

• Access checklists that provide guidance prior to applying

• Explore your company’s eligibility 

• Find answers to questions regarding your firm’s eligibility in the program
 
• Request information from SBA program experts 

• Create an account and proceed with your application (Note: when you create an account, you will be automatically prompted to a new screen to access login.gov. This is a secure platform for creating new account logins.)"






Thursday, August 6, 2020

THE TRUTH IN NEGOTIATIONS ACT (TINA)




MANAGING THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH DEFECTIVE PRICING 

INTRODUCTION:
 
We have previously discussed at this site the development of credible cost and pricing data. That data is the product of not only estimating and pricing but also job cost accounting for managing contracts, business system design to meet Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) and the integrated aspects of the company business system demonstrating regulatory compliance:

The purpose of this article is to cite the specifics of the “Truth in Negotiations Act” and recommend  management techniques to comply  with this law and avoid defective pricing claims by the US Government. 

THE TRUTH IN NEGOTIATIONS ACT (TINA)

Public Law 87-653 (codified by 10 USC 2306a) was originally enacted in 1962 to place the Government on equal footing with the contractor during contract negotiations.  The following are the principal features of the law:
  • Defines requirements for obtaining cost or pricing data
  •  Requires certification that data are current, accurate, and complete
  • Delineates exceptions to the requirement
  • Addresses data submission for pricing of commercial items, below threshold contracts, and “other information”
  •  Provides right of Government to examine contractor records
  • Defines cost or pricing data
  • Provides rules governing defective pricing
  • Downward Contract price adjustment
  • ·Recovery of overpayment (cost & profit) & interest (as of 1985)
  • Contract actions include contracts, subcontracts, and modifications
  •  TINA applicability is not affected by contract type
  •   For subcontracts, the $2M threshold applies to the submission of data from the subcontractor to the prime contractor.
 
FIVE POINTS THE GOVERNMENT UTILIZES FOR ESTABLISHING DEFECTIVE PRICING
 
1)    The information in question fits the definition of cost or pricing data.

(2)    Accurate, complete, and current data existed and were reasonably available to the contractor before the agreement on price.

(3)    Accurate, complete, and current data were not submitted or disclosed to the contracting officer or one of the authorized representatives of the contracting officer and these individuals did not have actual knowledge of such data or its significance to the proposal.

(4)    The Government relied on the defective data in negotiating with the contractor.

(5)    The Government’s reliance on the defective data caused an increase in the contract price.

MANAGING THE RISK OF A DEFECTIVE PRICING CLAIM
 
A government auditor relates to TINA and defective pricing whether or not it is required contractually and uses the TINA provisions as a frame of reference in how he or she views trend analysis of your company. Even if you do not have the TINA requirement in your bid or your contract, be aware the auditor is forming his or her opinion of your compliance with the law against the TINA framework.

Post award audits can be ordered at any time by a PCO. During such audits your proposal is juxtaposed to your incurred cost and historical data on a given contract. During such juxtapositions, defective pricing stands out glaringly.  If you become aware of an anomaly, cover your tracks by immediately assessing the impact and deciding whether or not a disclosure should be made.  

Integrate your system from pricing to billing to close out utilizing a consistent cost structure template and be aware you are putting audit history in place and that historical trends are what auditors follow.
 
Keep all subsequent disclosures under proposals to the government well documented, serialized and current at the prime and subcontract level, reflecting them in a detail record of negotiation.  

If you have commenced work prior to final negotiations under a letter contract or similar interim arrangement, conduct a sweep of actual costs and commitments and reflect them in an updated proposal to the government prior to negotiation of a final price.  Reassess quotes, escalation factors, indirect costs and related factors in the same manner if a proposal expires and you are asked to extend your pricing. 

If substantive conditions in an open proposal estimate change, document them thoroughly and disclose them to the government based on an astute analysis of your risk if they can be misconstrued as defective pricing by an auditor.  Carefully convey the impact on the prospective contract and its pricing to the contracting officer if you decide to disclose. 

Consistency with CAS and your CAS disclosure statement as well as your latest negotiated forward pricing rates is mandatory. Any departure from these baselines will attract audit attention.
In many defective pricing instances what you knew and when you knew it becomes a factor.  Continually assess changing conditions that may dramatically impact your cost performance and manage them by taking corrective actions, developing workarounds and carefully communicating requirements to your subcontractors and suppliers. 

Remember under TINA you are required to perform cost/price analysis of your subcontractors if their work scope exceeds the $700k threshold. You must submit the results with your proposal to the government.  If a disclosure becomes necessary, make it sooner rather than later when the data may be under the cloud of a negative audit finding.

SUMMARY
 
Defective pricing actions by the government can have a severe impact on your past performance rating.  They must be cited by you with any new business proposal in which you are asked if your company has been accused or convicted of a violation of the law or has open or pending government adjudications regarding legal violations. 

For examples of TINA violations please see the “Federal Contractor Misconduct Data Base”, maintained by the Project on Government Oversight:

Sculpt and educate your auditor, contracting officers and government analysts on the specifics of your company business system and preserve its integrity over the long run to maximize your win potential and lower the risk of defective pricing claims by the government. 

A good rule of thumb is to consider every proposal as if it were under TINA compliance whether or not you must submit a “Certificate of Current Cost and Pricing” under TINA.  This will keep your business system sharp, your ethics and standards high and your past performance record clean.

 

Monday, August 3, 2020

What Is A Small Business Federal Government Contractor?

Image:  SCORE.org


INTRODUCTION

There is often confusion regarding the definition of the term, “Contractor” in government work. The term is used in a conflicting manner to describe companies, individuals and business relationships. It has different connotations within corporations as opposed to government agencies, and is often confused with terms like “Subcontractor”, “Supplier” or “Vendor”.

This article defines the term, “Contractor” and discusses the regulatory factors and practical considerations related to use of the term from a small business federal government contracting perspective. 

DEFINITIONS

 1. Contractor (As Used In Corporations)
The term “Contractor” in corporations often refers to an individual, performing work for a company while not on the payroll as an employee, having no taxes, benefits or deductions taken from their pay and not covered by any form of insurance. The company issues a purchase order to the individual at an hourly rate and submits a Form 1099 to the US government reporting what the contractor is paid for services. The contractor must self-insure during the contract period and pay taxes on the money earned at the end of the tax year.

The use of individuals as contractors in large government contracting corporations has been limited due to class action law suits brought by contracting individuals who maintained they were utilized as employees without the associated benefits. As a result, in many companies the existing contractor work force was either offered permanent positions or released. Since that time, the use of contractors by large government prime contractors has been principally in specialty roles.

Corporations may also utilize the term “Contractors” when referring to companies in the manner defined by Definition 2, below. It is common for large prime contractors to use the term to describe themselves, their competition or co-equal teaming partners in joint ventures. When this 2nd definition is used it refers to a company, duly registered with the state and the federal government.

2. Contractor (As Used In Government Agencies)
The term “Contractors” in government parlance refers to businesses, not individuals. To become a contractor to a government agency, you must therefore form your own business. Government agencies do not engage individual “Contractors” as defined in 1, above. If they want individuals to perform services they put them on the agency payroll. If they want to acquire specialized outside services they contract with companies. 

3. Subcontractor

A “Subcontractor" is a company that takes on a flow-down of liability from a prime contractor to complete a major portion of a large scale job for the prime contractor's customer. The subcontractor is obligated to the prime contractually in an identical fashion as the prime is obligated to the government agency. The prime contractor issues a subcontract with a statement of work and flow down terms and conditions from the prime contract to the subcontractor. In many instances the government requires review and approval of major subcontractor selections and holds the prime contractor accountable contractually at the prime contract level for the subcontractor(s) efforts.

4. Supplier (or Vendor)
The term, “Supplier” connotes basically commercial relationships with companies that supply off the shelf parts and materials or simple, generic services. The General Services Administration (GSA) and other federal agencies also use the term to describe companies in negotiating supply schedules or in buying items under the commercial sections in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), such as FAR Part 12. Supplier contracts generally emphasize, price, delivery and matters such as warranty and do not involve -complex terms and conditions or the flow down of liability from the ordering firm prime contract.

REGULATORY FACTORS

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clauses governing small business state that a company undertaking a small business set-aside prime contract must be capable of performing 51% of the work scope under the terms of that contract and may not subcontract (as in 3, above) any more than 49% of the effort. These FAR clauses do not limit 1099 contractors (as in 1, above).

Many small enterprises use independent contractors on call to fulfill the manpower requirements of their contracts and specify these personnel in their proposals as qualified individuals. When these clients grow in long term contracts they make such personnel permanent party if the contractors are willing. Often contingent hire agreements are used for that purpose while proposing major programs. You can download a generic agreement from the "References" Box Net cube in the right margin of this site.

Contractors (as in 1 above) may be used to the extent they are necessary to win, but bear in mind the government prefers to see permanent party, since that implies stability (the government is conditioned to the perception that individuals , as contractors come and go).

Small business should propose work scope under set aside programs in teaming agreements so that the prime (small business) is performing at least 60% of the effort with employees or contractors to avoid the appearance of a front by a larger company (even though the statutory requirement is 51%).


In many cases it is preferable for a start-up small business to become a subcontractor, rather than a prime, building past performance associated with government contracting and developing beneficial teaming relationships with experienced government contracting firms.

SUMMARY
It is possible for a small business to perform, in tandem, one or more of the "Contractor" roles discussed in this article. Sometimes multiple roles are established with the same corporation or agency. Please use the search box at this site to view articles for information related to this topic.

It is vital to understand the "Contractor" role definition for each contractual commitment to insure suitable risk analysis, a good past performance record, conflict of interest avoidance and a solid reputation in the industry.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Promoting Entrepreneurship To Create A Learning Organization

Image; Timeshighereducation.com
Involve the employees in the training process and encourage mentoring.

The organization mission is conveyed by continuous organization training. Internal experts can be very entrepreneurial in training approaches. Recognize and reward them for doing so and place them in lead positions in training programs. Organization training in business is a form of communication. It is not an academic pursuit, although elements of it may include learning new information. Still, it is not schooling in the sense of personal improvement as much as it is communication of company policy and expectations.


The most successful organizations pair experienced personnel on a staff basis with junior ones as models. Each has individual assignments and reports to the boss but the senior party is the example in the process/experience-driven aspects of the job and is available to answer questions. The younger individual infuses the older one with energy and new ideas much like osmosis. The result is a hybrid of old and new that works and has been put together by a team. The approach works extremely well, imposes on no one, results in the young and old learning by observation, satisfaction and recognition for collective efforts and reduction in the boss’s work load. A win-win all around.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Why Social Network To Promote Your Small Business?

 Image:  Smallbiztrends.com
INTRODUCTION:

Personal, professional and business branding is occurring regularly, whether or not we are aware of it.

From our web site presence to our postings on the sites of others, from our credit ratings to our cell phone records and application navigation, we are tracking others and being tracked ourselves.
 

Deciding to become active in social networking is really a matter of managing personal, professional and business images/brands or having them manage us. 

THE INTEGRATED SOCIAL NETWORK

Networking is a vital tool in achieving an image/brand. Establish a network like a wheel. The hub is core content (web site, blog, books, articles, useful materials). The spokes leading from the hub are the tools to network content that is linked to the hub.
 

Contacts are the engines that power the wheel.

Content is the fuel that feeds the social networking contacts and powers the wheel. 

As the wheel turns, the quality of the networking improves with feedback and the wheel climbs the optimization hill of the major search engines (SEO).
 
Limiting factors are the quality of the core content and knowledge/persistence in networking.





CONTRIBUTE TO OTHERS

Blog, post and contribute to Q&A features on several sites:

1. It allows insight in solving the difficulties of others; always a satisfying achievement, dovetailing with professional endeavors and creating a positive image.

2. The manner in which a response is worded conveys values, expression, opinion, and insight to others who may wish to team, counter with a disagreement or pass on a reference to others; all healthy forms of communication.

3. Ratings features allow evaluation of responses by a large peer group.

4. With the growth of social networking international participation increasing dramatically, it provides insights into perspectives from other nations and cultures; a valuable input in the wired global economy these days.

5. The historical record of questions and answers, posting content and feedback is searched regularly by a large, world-wide community and draws others to profiles and web sites long after the initial dialogue has occurred.


MAKE PRUDENT JUDGEMENTS

Evaluate other net-workers for consistency. Value the participants who realize these are huge and open forums and who keep an open mind to input.
 

Do not value narrow minded use of these features for exclusively personal or business gain, control freak attitudes, and those who delete replies or answers because they disagree with the responses they are getting or are not getting what they perceive to be desirable results. 

THE END PRODUCT:

A brand, an image and valued content, carefully cultivated,  exchanged and viewed regularly with others and communicated for success. 

Please see the below link for an example of how the above principles are applied.

Integrated Utilities Linked as a Composite on "About Me"












Tuesday, July 21, 2020

YOUR CAPABILITY STATEMENT (CAPE) FOR SMALL BUSINESS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING


Federal government contracting is all about relationship development.  Marketing to influential agency personnel, industry partners, prospective team members, employees, associate contractors and others who can help you requires a hard hitting synopsis of what your firm brings to the table.

Place into a capability statement (CAPE) the specific information others need to know for a sound decision about your company qualifications. This information includes such items as a D&B Number, government registration numbers, North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes and the like. These items are elected or determined when you register your company for government contracting.

KEEP IT SHORT

An electronic capability statement (CAPE) for government contracts should be short and hard-hitting. It should be 1 -2 pages and should highlight the salient points of products and offerings, personnel and qualifications.

Below are examples of two good capability statements in the public domain.  The first is a services company, the second example is for a company selling off-the-shelf products.



CLICK ON IMAGES OR DOWNLOAD TO ENLARGE

CLICK ON IMAGES OR DOWNLOAD TO ENLARGE 

MAKE IT PROMOTIONAL

A good CAPE  will be a promotional brochure that on paper and through the electronic media advertises who you are, what you do and why the government or prime contractors should buy from you. Major elements of your capability statement, in addition to your small business designation and certifications, are as follows: 


(1) Company overview

(2) Supplies and services description couched utilizing your marketing ideas and strategy.

(3) Past performance of your enterprise or your personal background and qualifications 
(experience, education, etc.).

(4) Facilities or capabilities overview (How you perform your service couched in a manner that will appeal to your target market).

(5) Explanation of the positive results the client should expect.

(6) Points of contact and ways to contact you for meetings, placing an order and contracting your services. 

INCLUDE GRAPHICS

The document itself can be created with some graphics, pictures, themes and sales pitches in MS Word or Power Point Software. "Art Explosion Publisher Pro" is an inexpensive product which is useful in creating business brochures. It offers templates and works well with photos, graphics, background, etc. A picture of your product also helps. 

DISTRIBUTION

Your capability statement should be distributed on paper to your target market as a brochure, emailed as an attachment and linked into related industry web sites or partner marketing to get the word out about your product or service. Your CAPE targets contracting officers and prime contractor buyers who are seeking to fulfill their small business buying goals. It is a way to get you in the door and speak to, or correspond with, the management and technical personnel who are the decision makers in sourcing small business buys. 

SUMMARY
A good quality CAPE is the spearhead of your marketing campaign and your visual image;  focused and direct, it must be informative, concise and a snapshot of the very best you can offer.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Contract Closeout In Small Business Federal Government Contracting



INTRODUCTION

If you are an off-the-shelf or purchased-finished supplier of goods to the federal government, your contact closeout is reasonably simple. You will make delivery at a firm, fixed price to the agency to which you have contracted and submit an invoice. The government will receive and inspect the delivery and approve your invoice for payment. Assuming there are no ongoing warranties, logistics support or similar contract line items involved, the government will then closeout the contract, as will you.

Contracts involving progress billing with retention, cost type contracts and those with intellectual property, government property, classified documents, provisional billing rates and similar more complex matters require astute attention to detail and considerably more administrative support and coordination between the contractor and the government for closeout. Successful contract closeout of these types of programs is an ongoing process beginning at contract award.

This article will discuss the principal features of the closeout process in small business federal government contracting and provide references for further process detail.


THE GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVE


Below is a synopsis from the introduction to the Defense Contract Management Agency DCMA Manual 2501-07 Contract Closeout which is a free download from the  “References" File in the Box Net cube at the right margin of this site. The synopsis and the book should be read carefully by small business federal government contractors:

Communication and information sharing is key to timely contract closeout. Contract Closeout occurs when all the terms of a contract/order have been met and all administrative actions are completed, all disputes settled, and final payment has been made. This includes those administrative actions that are contractually required; i.e. property, patents and royalties" 

TIPS TO INSURE SUCCESSFUL CONTRACT CLOSEOUT

  • Consider the type of contact under which you are operating and locate that type in the manual Insure the processes specified in are followed in your contract administration from the onset of your contact. Government contract types are discussed at the following link:  Contract Types


Note the manual discusses both the role of the government and the contractor in closeout and the stages in achieving closeout. 

  • Support Cost-Type Contracts With Timely Incurred Cost Proposal Rates and Submissions – Several articles at this site have addressed the development of forward pricing rates and associated DCAA audits and submissions. Here are the most important articles with respect to contract closeout:




  • To close out a cost type contract that has been billed throughout its life at provisional rates, regular incurred cost submissions must be submitted by the contractor and verified by DCAA. Provisional rates must then be adjusted to audited applied actual costs and the final billing determined. This could result in net excess funding on the program that must be returned or a requirement for addition funding at closeout. In either case, the business impact could be substantial for a small enterprise.

Note the following Simplifying Techniques:

  • Verify payment accuracy and report discrepancies immediately.
  • Provide Contracting Officer with cost estimates of projected cost (usually 60 days in advance) in compliance with Limitation of Cost/Funds Clauses (FAR 52.232.20 through 21) for cost reimbursement and facilities contracts.
  • Submit patent reports on time to the Administrative Contracting Officer when required by the patent clause.
  • Submit Overhead Rate Proposals no later than 6 months after the end of the contractor's fiscal year.
  • Prepare final voucher no later than 4 months after settlement of overhead rates.
  • Consider Quick Closeout procedure when it's determined that normal closeout will be delayed.
  • Execute government property disposition instructions expediently.”
SUMMARY

Becoming informed on government contract closeout steps and putting in place processes to support them in your business system is the most important general principal to remember. Consider the type of contract you are releasing for incurred cost. Bear in mind how an individual contract impacts on your business system and insure your business system supports the type of contact you are putting into play. Develop a good working relationship with your contracting officers, DCMA and DCAA.  For more on the roles of these government functions, please see the following link:

Federal Government Contracting Customer Relations