Agencies Too Often ‘Just Say Yes’ in Evaluating Their Contractors

It can be difficult enough on many occasions for small businesses to land their fair share of federal contracts. Often, large government agencies seem to have an unstated preference for dealing with large contractors. This apparent preference is one of the reasons that Congress has authorized contract set-asides for small businesses and for other types of businesses , such as minority and women-owned businesses, that are historically disadvantaged.

Now, it seems that small businesses are facing another practical obstacle – the failure of most government agencies to provide truthful evaluations of the contractors they’ve dealt with. This phenomenon was described by none other than Joe Jordan, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and thus the top procurement official for the Obama administration.

In a speech on April 11 to the Small Business Conference hosted by the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council, as reported by Jill Aitoro of the Washington Business Journal, Jordan said that despite the existence of a system theoretically in place that requires agencies to describe truthfully whether a contractor did a good job, in practical terms few or no bad reviews are ever provided.

Jordan said that in his view, the reason is that most agency officials don’t want to go to the trouble of explaining negative reviews to the contracting company. Instead, they just say the contractor did a good job. The result is that the same contractors, usually large businesses, get hired over and over again, regardless of their performance. There is no negative feedback even when it may be deserved.

Jordan said frankly that the current situation “stinks.” He said he could get better and more accurate information for choosing a bed and breakfast for a personal trip than a federal department could get for a $50 million purchase.

Jordan didn’t immediately suggest any solution for this problem. It’s just another obstacle that deserving small businesses can encounter when trying to obtain federal contracts. Small businesses are well advised to contact legal counsel that can help them overcome this and many other potential problems.

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