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Federal Contracting Process: A Guide Before Working with the Government

 In GovCon Tips

Working with the federal government is quite different than working with private entities. There are certain processes and rules to follow. So, here is a guide to help you understand the federal contracting process. 

WHAT MAKES GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS DIFFERENT?

Federal contracts are highly regulated to encourage competition, guarantee the proper use of the taxpayer’s money, and promote healthy socio economic goals. 

Each contract also contains mandatory clauses that enable the government to have special rights within the contract.

It includes being able to change its terms and conditions and even end it.

Then, claims and legal actions from contractors should also follow the procedures of the Contract Disputes Act because the federal government is a sovereign entity. 

WHAT GOVERNED FEDERAL CONTRACTS?

Federal contracts are subject to several statutes including the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act and the Competition in Contracting Act while its procurement process for executive branches is also governed by the Federal Property Administrative Act and the Armed Services Procurement Act.

Due to these, the federal government developed a body of administrative law to address all of these through the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

Other agencies such as the NASA, the General Services Administration, and the Department of Defense also created supplements on this regulation in pursuit of the Administrative Procedure Act.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE CONTRACTING OFFICER?

A contract will not be bound without the authority of a contracting officer.

In order to follow the rules governing the contracts, an executive agency issues a warrant or a certificate of appointment to a contracting officer to grant, manage, or terminate a given contract. 

These warrants may either be a warrant with a specific amount of money or an unlimited warrant that is used for various contracting opportunities.

WHAT IS THE PROCUREMENT PROCESS?

Once the government agency provides a warrant to a contracting officer, this person moves to the next phase which can be either through sealed bidding or negotiation. 

When the contracting officer chose sealed bidding, he or she directly advertised an Invitation for Bids, read the bid to the public, and chose the lowest responsive bidder. However, if one of the conditions for the sealed bidding is not met or present, the contracting officer then awards the contract using competitive negotiation.

Competitive negotiation starts when there’s already an official issue of requests for proposals. It is then followed by the proposals review, negotiation, revision of proposals, second review, and lastly, the awarding of a contract. 

Regardless of what process the contracting officer chose, this person mainly checks the proposals and the background of each company if they are fit for the project. 

WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES?

During and after the procurement process, you must meet the business practices and ethical responsibilities imposed by the federal government. 

This includes not doing any act of bribery, false claims and statements, kickbacks, attempting to influence the award or modification of the contract, discussing employment to government officers and employees, and obtaining restricted information before the award of a contract.

This also goes the same way inside your company such as not encouraging discrimination to and between employees, following the socio-economic obligations as a government contractor, providing a subcontracting plan for small businesses, following the labor standards, and providing a drug-free workplace.

WHAT IS THE CONTRACT DISPUTE ACT?

When the contracting officer terminates or changes some parts of your contract that you didn’t agree with, you have the right to appeal these by following the Contract Dispute Act.

The act follows a process wherein you present a claim to the contracting officer regarding the action that you find unreasonable within your contract.

However, if the said person doesn’t provide a final decision regarding your dispute, you can appeal this to the US Court of Federal Claims which will then be forwarded to the Court of Appeals, and lastly to the Supreme Court, if not yet resolved.

Just remember that the government has sixty days to file an answer towards your company. And for your complaint not to be defeated, you must file it within a year after you receive the contracting officer’s final decision. 

RESOURCES

If you want to learn more about how the federal contracting process works as well as analyze the laws and rules written above, then be sure to click the links below.

https://www.justice.gov/jm/civil-resource-manual-70-contract-disputes-act

https://www.acquisition.gov/browse/index/far

https://www.onvia.com/for-business/go-to-market-guidance/sealed-bids-vs-proposals-how-they-compare

https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/grow-your-business/become-federal-contractor

https://www.usa.gov/become-government-contractor

https://corporate.findlaw.com/law-library/federal-government-contract-overview.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_procurement_in_the_United_States#Law

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