The Need for the Simplified Acquisition Program
The Simplified Acquisition Program was created to assist contracting officers in meeting their small business contracting goals. Contracting officers across the nation usually always have available government contracts, however many small business lack the resources to find these opportunities. Some of these contracts are never even posted to online federal bid boards like FedBizOpps (FBO). In fact, most of the contracts under $25,000 never even make it online and are awarded as simplified acquisition contracts or micro-purchase through a government purchase card (example: SmartPay Card).
Congress knew they needed to make small businesses more accessible to government buyers. There needed to be a solution to help Contracting Officers buy lower cost items in a way that did not require them to write out a ton of paperwork, and wait while the Interested Vendors submit their proposals. Instead Congress put together the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 13, which described easier solutions of payment and simplified acquisition procedures. Procurement officers and federal buyers did not know a simple way to award contracts before FAR 13. With the creation of government purchase cards and a new simplified acquisition threshold, it gave federal buyers a way to streamline smaller purchases of services and goods. Thanks to these new implementations, spending evolved in government contracting.
Since the implementation of FAR 13, the Small Business Administration (SBA) discovered around 70% of all government procurement transactions are for micro-purchases. The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act and other statutory amendments removed competition restrictions on government purchases under $150,000. Thus, reducing the amount steps and procedures it takes to award government contracts. The FAR 13 managed to reduce administrative cost, promote efficiency and economy in contracting, and allowed contracting officers to avoid unnecessary burdens between buyers and contractors. FAR 13 even improved opportunities for small, small disadvantaged, women-owned, veteran-owned, HUBZone, and service-disabled veteran-owned small business concerns.
Increased Payment Procedures – Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 13.000-13106-3
The FAR 13 discusses the following in full detail about simplified acquisition contracts, simplified acquisition procedures, and the simplified acquisition threshold: the purpose, policy, legal effect quotations, laws, provisions/clauses, source list, soliciting competition, evaluation of quotations/offers and award and documentation data.
In FAR 13.102, it states that a contracting officer must use System for Award Management (SAM) as the primary source of vendor information. Most businesses use US Federal Contractor Registration to conduct the required government registration in order to make sure the process is done properly, and free of any possible errors. A vendors account profile in SAM should also describe if they are a small business, small disadvantaged business, woman-owned business, HUBZone small business or service disabled veteran owned small business. These statuses may be used to ensure that small business concerns are provided the maximum practicable opportunities to respond to solicitations issued using simplified acquisition procedures.
The FAR 13.103 promotes procurement officers to hire new vendors and abide by the heavily enforced rule of not soliciting quotations based on personal preference, and to not restrict any solicitations to well-known suppliers or brands.
FAR 13.105 – 13.106 discusses posting requirements for procurement officers when promoting available contracts online. Unless the procurement officer deems it a sole source contract, they must post award notices and actively promote the solicitation. All publicized contract actions must follow the guidelines as set forth by the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
FAR 13.106-1 covers soliciting competition to a contract unless it is deemed a sole source contract. Every procurement officer must take into consideration the urgency of the proposed purchase, the dollar value of the proposed purchase, and the past performance concerning a specific dealers’ prices. Contracting officers are encouraged to use best value, not cheapest offer. Solicitations are not required to state the relative importance assigned to each evaluation factor and sub-factor; nor are they required to include sub-factors. Procurement officers must solicit quotations orally to the maximum extent practicable. It is more efficient to submit written solicitations for contracts exceeding $30,000.
In FAR 13.106-2-13.106-3, it discusses how a government buyer would conduct his or her evaluations of quotations or offers. It clearly states that the contracting officer has broad discretion in fashioning suitable evaluation procedures. Meaning they can use their best interest to do the right thing for the good of the agency when conducting a simplified acquisition contract. As long as they are bidding by FAR 13.106-1, and maintaining the guidelines of the simplified acquisition threshold, they are not breaking any rules. FAR 13.106-2 also states if using price and other factors ensures that quotations or offers can be evaluated in an efficient and minimally burdensome fashion. Formal evaluation plans and establishing a competitive range, conducting discussions, and scoring quotations or offers are not required.
FAR 13.201-13.202 talks about the use of government purchase cards, purchase guidelines and mirco-purchase negotiation. Purchases at or below the micro-purchase threshold ($2,500) may be conducted using any of the methods as long as the purchaser is authorized and trained to agency procedures. The FAR goes on to state that purchases up to $15,000 can be made on a government purchase card inside the United States and up to $25,000 outside of the United States. Micro-purchases may be awarded without soliciting competitive quotations if the contracting officer deems the price to be reasonable.
As it clearly states in FAR 13.401-13.404, fast payment procedure allows payment under limited conditions to a contractor prior to the Government’s verification; (approval) that supplies have been received and accepted. The procedure provides for payment for supplies based on the contractor’s submission of an invoice that constitutes a certification that the contractor has delivered the supplies to a post office, common carrier, or point of first receipt by the Government; and shall replace, repair, or correct supplies if not received at destination, damaged in transit, or not conforming to purchase agreements.
Finally, the contracting officer shall be primarily responsible for determining the amount of debts resulting from failure of contractors to properly replace, repair, or correct supplies lost, damaged, or not conforming to purchase requirements. So as long as a contractor has provided 1 of 3 ways to certify the fast payment procurement and the products have valid means of making it to the procurement location, the government contract can be approved and completed immediately.
Sole Source Contracts (No Bid) in Conjunction with Simplified Acquisition Contracts
In many ways large federal contracts can even be awarded, as simplified acquisition contracts if there is an extreme need for a product or service. The White House website even states, “there are hundreds of federal agencies and commissions charged with handling such responsibilities as managing America’s space program, protecting its forests, and gathering intelligence.” This means that all of these agencies must have at least one contracting officer to make sure items are purchased and contractors are hired to perform necessary duties. If an agency cannot find what they deem as a qualified contractor and express urgency they can issue a sole source contract, or a no bid contract to the only person/business that can fulfill the contract requirements.
As stated in FAR 13.106-1, procurement officers can hire from one source immediately if that officer determines that the circumstance calls for it. The larger the contract, the more scrutiny it will be under. Large contracts above the simplified acquisition threshold must be documented in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS). Many contracting officers would rather award a Simplified Acquisition Contract simply to avoid the paperwork of (FAPIIS).
Many of these types of contracts can also be considered Simplified Acquisition Contracts if they stay within the Simplified Acquisition Threshold. The Simplified Acquisition Program markets businesses directly to government buyer in agencies across the nation. The odds of a contracting officer having an available solicitation that must be fulfill immediately are very high in federal procurement. Spending is especially needed in the Final Fiscal Quarter of every year (July – September).
In Conclusion Procurement officers are required to spend 23% of their Federal budget on small businesses concerns and Simplified Acquisition Program makes this possible. The program allows contracting officers to search via keyword and find small business owners across the nation in seconds. The program allows business to make connections with contracting officers to gain access to pre-solicitations. Lastly the program simplifies the award process on contracts under $150,000 for both contracting officers and small businesses.