GSA Contractor Code of Business Ethics and Conduct

The Multiple Award Schedule program recently completed a contract-wide rollout of contract Solicitation updates, termed by GSA as a “Refresh”, and an important new clause that I recently blogged about has been incorporated into every MAS contract. The new FAR clause is becoming increasingly familiar amongst GSA contractors, though many don’t know that it is now part of their federal contract. FAR clause 52.203-13 “Contractor Code of Business Ethics and Conduct” is a perfect example of a few bad apples spoiling it for the whole bunch. Well, perhaps there were more than just a few, but this new requirement is largely the result of egregious corporate misconduct over the past decade. It came about when the DOJ formally asked the FAR Council to increase compliance requirements for federal contractors. The goal was for contractors to have a clear and contractual obligation to disclose contractor misconduct. The incentive to make known this type of illegal activity already existed through the Qui Tam provisions of the FAR by awarding whistleblowers a percentage of recovered funds. This same provision is reinforced in 52.203-13.

The requirements are broken into two parts: the first requires a “code of business ethics and conduct” for all contractors that have this clause incorporated into their contract. I have included FAR Clause for reference, but if you have any questions about implementing this into your business operations, please let us know. Trust me, this is not something you can sweep under the rug!

FAR 52.203-13 Contractor Code of Business Ethics and Conduct.

Contractor Code of Business Ethics and Conduct (Apr 2010)

(a) Definitions. As used in this clause—

“Agent” means any individual, including a director, an officer, an employee, or an independent Contractor, authorized to act on behalf of the organization.

“Full cooperation”—

(1) Means disclosure to the Government of the information sufficient for law enforcement to identify the nature and extent of the offense and the individuals responsible for the conduct. It includes providing timely and complete response to Government auditors’ and investigators’ request for documents and access to employees with information;

(2) Does not foreclose any Contractor rights arising in law, the FAR, or the terms of the contract. It does not require—

(i) A Contractor to waive its attorney-client privilege or the protections afforded by the attorney work product doctrine; or

(ii) Any officer, director, owner, or employee of the Contractor, including a sole proprietor, to waive his or her attorney client privilege or Fifth Amendment rights; and

(3) Does not restrict a Contractor from—

(i) Conducting an internal investigation; or

(ii) Defending a proceeding or dispute arising under the contract or related to a potential or disclosed violation.

“Principal” means an officer, director, owner, partner, or a person having primary management or supervisory responsibilities within a business entity (e.g., general manager; plant manager; head of a division or business segment; and similar positions).

“Subcontract” means any contract entered into by a subcontractor to furnish supplies or services for performance of a prime contract or a subcontract.

“Subcontractor” means any supplier, distributor, vendor, or firm that furnished supplies or services to or for a prime contractor or another subcontractor.

“United States,” means the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and outlying areas.

(b) Code of business ethics and conduct.

(1) Within 30 days after contract award, unless the Contracting Officer establishes a longer time period, the Contractor shall—

(i) Have a written code of business ethics and conduct; and

(ii) Make a copy of the code available to each employee engaged in performance of the contract.

(2) The Contractor shall—

(i) Exercise due diligence to prevent and detect criminal conduct; and

(ii) Otherwise promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law.

(3)(i) The Contractor shall timely disclose, in writing, to the agency Office of the Inspector General (OIG), with a copy to the Contracting Officer, whenever, in connection with the award, performance, or closeout of this contract or any subcontract thereunder, the Contractor has credible evidence that a principal, employee, agent, or subcontractor of the Contractor has committed—

(A) A violation of Federal criminal law involving fraud, conflict of interest, bribery, or gratuity violations found in Title 18 of the United States Code; or

(B) A violation of the civil False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. 3729-3733).

(ii) The Government, to the extent permitted by law and regulation, will safeguard and treat information obtained pursuant to the Contractor’s disclosure as confidential where the information has been marked “confidential” or “proprietary” by the company. To the extent permitted by law and regulation, such information will not be released by the Government to the public pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, 5 U.S.C. Section 552, without prior notification to the Contractor. The Government may transfer documents provided by the Contractor to any department or agency within the Executive Branch if the information relates to matters within the organization’s jurisdiction.

(iii) If the violation relates to an order against a Government wide acquisition contract, a multi-agency contract, a multiple-award schedule contract such as the Federal Supply Schedule, or any other procurement instrument intended for use by multiple agencies, the Contractor shall notify the OIG of the ordering agency and the IG of the agency responsible for the basic contract.

(c) Business ethics awareness and compliance program and internal control system. This paragraph (c) does not apply if the Contractor has represented itself as a small business concern pursuant to the award of this contract or if this contract is for the acquisition of a commercial item as defined at FAR 2.101. The Contractor shall establish the following within 90 days after contract award, unless the Contracting Officer establishes a longer time period.

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