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FCW : May 15, 2014
Commentary | JAIME GRACIA JAIME GRACIA is president and CEO of Seville Government Consulting. Although the failed rollout of HealthCare.gov brought attention to how the government purchases technology, little consideration has been given to how contractors with poor track records of performance continue to get federal contracts. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) raised the issue at a recent congres- sional hearing by saying that the Centers for Medicare and Medic- aid Services “could have avoided a black eye” for the launch of Health- Care.gov if the agency had had rel- evant data on the past performance of CGI Federal. Last year, the government issued a new rule in an attempt to create standardized contract performance rating and evaluation factors for fed- eral contractors. However, without the metrics and objective perfor- mance parameters needed to create uniformity and consistency, the rule simply continued the current system of subjective ratings by evaluators. Furthermore, performance rat- ings under the new rule follow the same procedures as before: Appeals go to only one level above the contracting officer, after which the decision becomes final and irreversible. That approach, which could do permanent damage to a company, does not ensure a holistic and objective view of the factors involved in the “poor” performance. Finally, the new rule does not create clear requirements for protecting proprietary contractor information or keeping past- performance data confidential while ensuring the effective use of that information. Past-performance data should be one of the most important factors in contractor selection. The lack of effective oversight not only keeps new, innovative firms out of the market, but it allows the bad actors to continue to receive contracts. One need only look at the list of government contractors that owe hundreds of millions in back taxes to see that there is a problem. Efforts to alleviate some of the pressure on procurement offi- cials to write past-performance reviews have also not been pro- ductive. Recent changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation to shorten the time contractors have to respond to past-performance reviews from 30 days to 15 days have had little impact on contract- ing officers’ reporting. Those efforts seem to be doing nothing more than limiting the due-process rights of contractors to refute poor evaluations. On FCW’s “The Lectern” blog, Steve Kelman says such rights should be limited because contractors are afforded an “exaggerated notion of due-process protections.” But without a stan- dardized method of evaluation, the current subjective nature of past- performance evaluations contin- ues to make due-process protec- tions necessary. There has been an unfortunate increase in hostility and animosity between procurement officials and industry, but blaming a contractor for poor performance is only half the story. Less often mentioned are the weaknesses in government manage- ment that lead to poor requirements definitions, which in turn result in contracts that have little chance of success. Poor requirements com- bined with the little attention that is being paid to quality in this lowest price, technically acceptable envi- ronment make it more important than ever that objective perfor- mance data be captured and reported to make any past- performance review credible. Every contract has some project management requirement, so there is no excuse for not reporting such data. Enormous sums of money are spent to create that data, but it does not seem to be used effectively, if at all. Only when those responsible are held accountable for reporting that data and only when that data is objective, standardized and publicly available will past-performance reviews be effective. ■ Government needs to protect contractors’ rights Companies should be allowed to challenge unfavorable reviews of their performance on agency contracts The current subjective nature of past-performance evaluations continues to make due-process protections necessary. 12 May 15, 2014 FCW.COM POINT:
April 30, 2014
May 30, 2014