Audit Questions Contractor Teaming Arrangement Oversight
A schedule contractor teaming arrangement (CTA) is an agreement between two or more Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contractors to work together in meeting a particular ordering agency’s needs. The arrangements are set up by the team members independent of the government, and allows for firms to compete for work they would not otherwise qualify for, as the arrangements are structured to complement each firm’s capabilities.
As long as the final agreement doesn’t conflict with each team member’s individual schedule contracts, the contractors are free to structure teaming agreements in the way that produces the best solution. But a recent audit from GSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) raised concern over how closely Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) contracting officials are able to monitor and administer contractor teaming arrangements. It could be worth paying attention: it’s a safe bet that issues identified with proper oversight of teaming arrangements aren’t isolated to FAS.
“Assisted Acquisitions contracting officers,” the audit says, “have been provided minimal instruction and have received no formal training relating to the award and administration of team arrangements.” FAS does issue some guidance on team arrangements, but it is “suggestive rather than mandatory.”
Contracting officers readily admitted to auditors that they have little experience with teaming agreement awards, resulting in some examples of improper administration. In one RFQ, a team of contractors responded but did not include a teaming agreement. While FAS guidance recommends that contractor team arrangements submit teaming agreements along with their proposals, it isn’t a requirement. This can cause issues for both contractors — who may be responding incorrectly — and contracting officers — who may not realize it is a teaming arrangement at all.
In another example, auditors found that contracting officers were only doing excluded parties list system (EPLS) checks on the team leads and not every member of the CTA. This gave light to another issue: system limitations. The FAR requires that contracting officers review each team member for exclusions in SAM (FAR 9.405). But the systems tracking CTAs only allow the team lead to be the contractor identified as the awardee, the report says. In teaming arrangements, each member of the team is considered a prime contractor and can interact with the government accordingly.
Since only one contractor in a teaming agreement can be identified in the system as the awardee, it can impact a CO’s knowledge of a particular arrangement and the effective administration of a contract. For example, the performance ratings for the entire team could be assigned to the team lead in the system and not to each member of the team performing the work. In another example of confusion, auditors found that a team lead submitted charges for subcontractors even though the charges were actually for team members. This can be very confusing, as individual team members—each a prime itself—can also have their own subcontractors under a teaming arrangement.
To GSA, this was yet another indication of “a misunderstanding of teaming arrangements and how they should be administered.” To improve the oversight and administration of contractor teaming arrangements, the audit made several suggestions. If the issues outlined in GSA’s audit of MAS teaming arrangements sound at all familiar, it could pay off to heed the advice in boning up guidance and understanding of contractor team arrangements.
The audit recommended that FAS:
- Develop policies specifically for contractor team arrangements
- Provide instruction and training to contracting officers and contractors on the use of team arrangements
- Develop a central internal identification and tracking methodology for team arrangements