Ethics in Government Contracting: Time for Change?

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Amanda Blount 7 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #97815

    Candace Riddle
    Participant

    Recent media reports of corruption in government contracting has resulted in a damaged reputation for the profession, government agencies, and government contractors. The problem seems to be the failure to establish clear ethical guidelines. The results of such failure results in ruined reputations, fines, imprisonment, delayed or terminated government programs, and additional costs to taxpayers.

    In the April 2010 issue of Contract Management, William Sims Curry, makes several suggestions for the improvement of and development of guidelines for “acceptable limits on gratuities” within the government contracting field.

    As a professional in the financial industry for the past three years, I was shocked to learn that current standards for ethical conduct and guidelines for gift giving/ receiving do not exist for contractors and government agencies. Perhaps there are several lessons to be learned from existing FINRA, NASD, and State Department of Insurance regulations which guide and establish annual maximum gift amounts as well as guidelines and reporting standards for “conflicts of interest”.

    Sims (2010), concluded that a “zero tolerance gratuity policy” was “impractical,” nonetheless, should be a goal for government contractors, officials, and agencies during the contracting/ subcontracting process. Sims (2010) stated,

    “[p]rogress towards zero tolerance with respect to gratuities could be achieved if government agencies would reward contractors that implement effective zero tolerance gratuity practices by providing added consideration with respect to source selection decisions and profit negotiations. Such incentives are presently provided by the federal government by rewarding contractors that establish effective management systems and implement effective social contracting practices [see (FAR) 15.404-4 and (FAR) 15.304” (p. 56-57)

    What are your thoughts and feelings on existing ethical guidelines for government contracting as they pertain to “gratuities”? Is it ethical at all or should a “zero-tolerance” policy be implemented? What is your personal experience (good or bad) with the giving and accepting of “gratuities”?

  • #97827

    Amanda Blount
    Participant

    HI Candace,

    I totally agree with your intent of the post. I am so sick of people with no ethical standards.

    But, as I was reading your post I found something misleading….

    “As a professional in the financial industry for the past three years, I was shocked to learn that current standards for ethical conduct and guidelines for gift giving/ receiving do not exist for contractors and government agencies. Perhaps there are several lessons to be learned from existing FINRA, NASD, and State Department of Insurance regulations which guide and establish annual maximum gift amounts as well as guidelines and reporting standards for “conflicts of interest”.”

    We in Government have huge Ethical and Gift Giving regulations! The regulations are so strict, I would not even accept flowers from a vendor (who I knew before I worked for the Government) when my father passed away because the flowers were going to be more than the $50 limit. I never wanted the perception of wrong doing, even at my father’s funeral.

    I can find those policies for you. But, trust me when I say, Contracting personnel know those polices like clockwork… some just refuse to follow them.

    Bascially the rules are as follows;

    No gift over $20 at any one time from one vendor (contractor), no more than $50 total from one vendor in one year. No gift at all if it will give the perception of wrong doing. Occasional food items on holidays for the whole office is ok, but again, do not accept if the food will give the impression of wrong doing. NO one should accept meals just for one person (lunches add up). No one should accept little gifts just for just one person in the office on a constant basis (those pens and hats add up).

    There is more – but that is basically the broad stroke of the rules.

    BTW – DAU has a FREE Online Ethics class for Government Contracting employees AND Contractors to take. We encourage all our vendors to take the class. This will help them realize we are not being mean when we do not accept gifts, we are being good employees.

    Like I mentioned, there are other regs and policies out there. I would need to upload them for you.

    Again, some people fail to follow the rules.

    I still like your post as it stands on intent! Government employees need to know we set the example, and our behavior is being watched by the citizens (including your co-workers).

    If it can’t be published in the Washington Post – Don’t do it!

  • #97825

    Candace Riddle
    Participant

    My mistake on wording.

    There are so many policies, executive orders, judicial opinions, etc.that affect the FAR. This may repeat past “2.0” discussions, but do you think there is a way to streamline the various facets affecting FAR into an up-to-date database for easy reference?

  • #97823

    Srinidhi Boray
    Participant

    I just got manipulated by a predator owning a 8(a) contract. This has been an end-less experience and have on many times complained to OIG. Nothing much happened. I think this category is most abused in Government. Having worked as a contractor being an employee of companies owning the contract has been an terrible experience. Especially when my work entails establishing “line of sight” for the investments all the way to the correct motivations that delivers results to citizens. This is despite legislations in place.

    People have just become immune, are in callous disregard absolutely careless and wanton. These people need to be dealt with iron fist. All complaints must be displayed for the public to read.

    Contracts and task orders are many times gamed by the collusion of the Contractors and officials.

    There are very strict standards, ACTs, Policies – a very robust system exists – but somehow people seem to get away. I wonder if OIG really acts.

    I am thinking I must myself publish the complaints. But am not convinced that the law will prevail. We are living in a complex mess where DC bandits have thrived and have become very large and powerful.

  • #97821

    Peter Sperry
    Participant

    The basic rule of thumb on gifts and gratuities is that if an item is worth carrying past the trash can on you way out of the room, you can’t keep it.

  • #97819

    Amanda Blount
    Participant

    Good rule to think of! 🙂

  • #97817

    Amanda Blount
    Participant

    I once was offered super bowl tickets. I was sickened by the thought. My stomach still gets sick when I think they may be doing the same things to others and gaining contracts that way.

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