In February 2011, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) released a memo called “Myth-Busting: Addressing Misconceptions to Improve Communication with Industry During the Acquisition Process.”
They recognized that agencies were hesitating to meet with vendors out of fear of protests or because they just didn’t have effective strategies to manage these communications. Vendors, on the other hand, had fears of their own, such as inadvertently creating a conflict of interest that would keep them from competing on future requirements.
They held a series of sessions with representatives from all aspects of the acquisition process to get a better sense of everything that was getting in the way of clear communication between the federal agencies and their prospective vendors. Out of those talks, they pulled together the 10 misconceptions they heard most frequently, and gathered them in this myth-busting memo, along with the corresponding fact and a detailed explanation for each point.
You can read the full report in the White House Archives, but here is a summary of the 10 myths and facts, along with my comments. This document may be a few years old, but the myths are still around!
Misconception 1: We can’t meet on-on-one with a potential vendor.
Fact: Government officials can generally meet one-on-one with potential offerors as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment.
Note from Bill: Just be aware that anything government officials say to you, they might be obligated to publish.
Misconception 2: Since communication with contractors is like communication with registered lobbyists, and since contact with lobbyists must be disclosed, additional communication with contractors will involve a substantial additional disclosure burden, so we should avoid these meetings.
Fact: Disclosure is required only in certain circumstances, such as for meetings with registered lobbyists. Most contractors do not fall into this category, and even when disclosure is required, it is normally a minimal burden that should not prevent a useful meeting from taking place.
Note from Bill: Go ahead and meet. Don’t accept this excuse; push back and tell them you’re not a registered lobbyist, and that shouldn’t be a barrier.
Misconception 3: A protest is something to be avoided at all costs – even if it means the government limits conversations with industry.
Fact: Restricting communication won’t prevent a protest, and limiting communication might actually increase the chance of a protest – in addition to depriving the government of potentially useful information.
Note from Bill: This canard is very common, that they are afraid of Misconception #1 causing a protest from whomever they don’t meet with. Not true, as long as they discuss the same things with everyone.
Misconception 4: Conducting discussions/negotiations after receipt of proposals will add too much time to the schedule.
Fact: Whether discussions should be conducted is a key decision for contracting officers to make. Avoiding discussions solely because of schedule concerns may be counter-productive, and may cause delays and other problems during contract performance.
Note from Bill: Well, it will add time, but it also improves the result and lowers the cost. It’s too bad more contracting officers don’t do this, because the result would be much better for the customer.
Misconception 5: If the government meets with vendors, that may cause them to submit an unsolicited proposal and that will delay the procurement process.
Fact: Submission of an unsolicited proposal should not affect the schedule. Generally, the unsolicited proposal process is separate from the process for a known agency requirement that can be acquired using competitive methods.
Note from Bill: Unsolicited proposals are very welcome and they often lead to contracts! Chase down that revenue – create a truly formatted correct unsolicited proposal, and submit away.
Let’s stop there for now, and we’ll cover the last five sets of myths and facts in another post.