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9.000  Scope of part.

This part prescribes policies, standards, and procedures pertaining to prospective contractors’ responsibility; debarment, suspension, and ineligibility; qualified products; first article testing and approval; contractor team arrangements; defense production pools and research and development pools; and organizational conflicts of interest.

Subpart 9.1—Responsible Prospective Contractors

9.100  Scope of subpart.

This subpart prescribes policies, standards, and procedures for determining whether prospective contractors and subcontractors are responsible.

9.101  Definition.

“Surveying activity,” as used in this subpart, means the cognizant contract administration office or, if there is no such office, another organization designated by the agency to conduct preaward surveys.

9.102  Applicability.

(a) This subpart applies to all proposed contracts with any prospective contractor that is located—

(1) In the United States or its outlying areas; or

(2) Elsewhere, unless application of the subpart would be inconsistent with the laws or customs where the contractor is located.

(b) This subpart does not apply to proposed contracts with—

(1) Foreign, State, or local governments;

(2) Other U.S. Government agencies or their instrumentalities; or

(3) Agencies for the blind or other severely handicapped (see Subpart 8.7).

9.103  Policy.

(a) Purchases shall be made from, and contracts shall be awarded to, responsible prospective contractors only.

(b) No purchase or award shall be made unless the contracting officer makes an affirmative determination of responsibility. In the absence of information clearly indicating that the prospective contractor is responsible, the contracting officer shall make a determination of nonresponsibility. If the prospective contractor is a small business concern, the contracting officer shall comply with Subpart 19.6, Certificates of Competency and Determinations of Responsibility. (If Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 637) applies, see Subpart 19.8.)

(c) The award of a contract to a supplier based on lowest evaluated price alone can be false economy if there is subsequent default, late deliveries, or other unsatisfactory performance resulting in additional contractual or administrative costs. While it is important that Government purchases be made at the lowest price, this does not require an award to a supplier solely because that supplier submits the lowest offer. A prospective contractor must affirmatively demonstrate its responsibility, including, when necessary, the responsibility of its proposed subcontractors.

9.104  Standards.

9.104-1  General standards.

To be determined responsible, a prospective contractor must—

(a) Have adequate financial resources to perform the contract, or the ability to obtain them (see 9.104-3(a));

(b) Be able to comply with the required or proposed delivery or performance schedule, taking into consideration all existing commercial and governmental business commitments;

(c) Have a satisfactory performance record (see 9.104-3(b) and Subpart 42.15). A prospective contractor shall not be determined responsible or nonresponsible solely on the basis of a lack of relevant performance history, except as provided in 9.104-2;

(d) Have a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics.

(e) Have the necessary organization, experience, accounting and operational controls, and technical skills, or the ability to obtain them (including, as appropriate, such elements as production control procedures, property control systems, quality assurance measures, and safety programs applicable to materials to be produced or services to be performed by the prospective contractor and subcontractors). (See 9.104-3(a).)

(f) Have the necessary production, construction, and technical equipment and facilities, or the ability to obtain them (see 9.104-3(a)); and

(g) Be otherwise qualified and eligible to receive an award under applicable laws and regulations.

9.104-2  Special standards.

(a) When it is necessary for a particular acquisition or class of acquisitions, the contracting officer shall develop, with the assistance of appropriate specialists, special standards of responsibility. Special standards may be particularly desirable when experience has demonstrated that unusual expertise or specialized facilities are needed for adequate contract performance. The special standards shall be set forth in the solicitation (and so identified) and shall apply to all offerors.

(b) Contracting officers shall award contracts for subsistence only to those prospective contractors that meet the general standards in 9.104-1 and are approved in accordance with agency sanitation standards and procedures.

9.104-3  Application of standards.

(a) Ability to obtain resources. Except to the extent that a prospective contractor has sufficient resources or proposes to perform the contract by subcontracting, the contracting officer shall require acceptable evidence of the prospective contractor’s ability to obtain required resources (see 9.104-1(a), (e), and (f)). Acceptable evidence normally consists of a commitment or explicit arrangement, that will be in existence at the time of contract award, to rent, purchase, or otherwise acquire the needed facilities, equipment, other resources, or personnel. Consideration of a prime contractor’s compliance with limitations on subcontracting shall take into account the time period covered by the contract base period or quantities plus option periods or quantities, if such options are considered when evaluating offers for award.

(b) Satisfactory performance record. A prospective contractor that is or recently has been seriously deficient in contract performance shall be presumed to be nonresponsible, unless the contracting officer determines that the circumstances were properly beyond the contractor’s control, or that the contractor has taken appropriate corrective action. Past failure to apply sufficient tenacity and perseverance to perform acceptably is strong evidence of nonresponsibility. Failure to meet the quality requirements of the contract is a significant factor to consider in determining satisfactory performance. The contracting officer shall consider the number of contracts involved and the extent of deficient performance in each contract when making this determination. If the pending contract requires a subcontracting plan pursuant to Subpart 19.7, The Small Business Subcontracting Program, the contracting officer shall also consider the prospective contractor’s compliance with subcontracting plans under recent contracts.

(c) Affiliated concerns. Affiliated concerns (see “Concern” in 19.001 and “Affiliates” in 19.101) are normally considered separate entities in determining whether the concern that is to perform the contract meets the applicable standards for responsibility. However, the contracting officer shall consider the affiliate’s past performance and integrity when they may adversely affect the prospective contractor’s responsibility.

(d) Small business concerns.

(1) If a small business concern’s offer that would otherwise be accepted is to be rejected because of a determination of nonresponsibility, the contracting officer shall refer the matter to the Small Business Administration, which will decide whether or not to issue a Certificate of Competency (see Subpart 19.6).

(2) A small business that is unable to comply with the limitations on subcontracting at 52.219-14 may be considered nonresponsible.

9.104-4  Subcontractor responsibility.

(a) Generally, prospective prime contractors are responsible for determining the responsibility of their prospective subcontractors (but see 9.405 and 9.405-2 regarding debarred, ineligible, or suspended firms). Determinations of prospective subcontractor responsibility may affect the Government’s determination of the prospective prime contractor’s responsibility. A prospective contractor may be required to provide written evidence of a proposed subcontractor’s responsibility.

(b) When it is in the Government’s interest to do so, the contracting officer may directly determine a prospective subcontractor’s responsibility (e.g., when the prospective contract involves medical supplies, urgent requirements, or substantial subcontracting). In this case, the same standards used to determine a prime contractor’s responsibility shall be used by the Government to determine subcontractor responsibility.

9.105  Procedures

9.105-1  Obtaining information.

(a) Before making a determination of responsibility, the contracting officer shall possess or obtain information sufficient to be satisfied that a prospective contractor currently meets the applicable standards in 9.104.

(b)(1) Generally, the contracting officer shall obtain information regarding the responsibility of prospective contractors, including requesting preaward surveys when necessary (see 9.106), promptly after a bid opening or receipt of offers. However, in negotiated contracting, especially when research and development is involved, the contracting officer may obtain this information before issuing the request for proposals. Requests for information shall ordinarily be limited to information concerning—

(i) The low bidder; or

(ii) Those offerors in range for award.

(2) Preaward surveys shall be managed and conducted by the surveying activity.

(i) If the surveying activity is a contract administration office—

(A) That office shall advise the contracting officer on prospective contractors’ financial competence and credit needs; and

(B) The administrative contracting officer shall obtain from the auditor any information required concerning the adequacy of prospective contractors’ accounting systems and these systems’ suitability for use in administering the proposed type of contract.

(ii) If the surveying activity is not a contract administration office, the contracting officer shall obtain from the auditor any information required concerning prospective contractors’ financial competence and credit needs, the adequacy of their accounting systems, and these systems’ suitability for use in administering the proposed type of contract.

(3) Information on financial resources and performance capability shall be obtained or updated on as current a basis as is feasible up to the date of award.

(c) In making the determination of responsibility (see 9.104-1(c)), the contracting officer shall consider relevant past performance information (see Subpart 42.15). In addition, the contracting officer should use the following sources of information to support such determinations:

(1) The Excluded Parties List System maintained in accordance with Subpart 9.4.

(2) Records and experience data, including verifiable knowledge of personnel within the contracting office, audit offices, contract administration offices, and other contracting offices.

(3) The prospective contractor—including bid or proposal information, questionnaire replies, financial data, information on production equipment, and personnel information.

(4) Commercial sources of supplier information of a type offered to buyers in the private sector.

(5) Preaward survey reports (see 9.106).

(6) Other sources such as publications; suppliers, subcontractors, and customers of the prospective contractor; financial institutions; Government agencies; and business and trade associations.

(7) If the contract is for construction, the contracting officer may consider performance evaluation reports (see 36.201(c)(2)).

(d) Contracting offices and cognizant contract administration offices that become aware of circumstances casting doubt on a contractor’s ability to perform contracts successfully shall promptly exchange relevant information.

9.105-2  Determinations and documentation.

(a) Determinations.

(1) The contracting officer’s signing of a contract constitutes a determination that the prospective contractor is responsible with respect to that contract. When an offer on which an award would otherwise be made is rejected because the prospective contractor is found to be nonresponsible, the contracting officer shall make, sign, and place in the contract file a determination of nonresponsibility, which shall state the basis for the determination.

(2) If the contracting officer determines and documents that a responsive small business lacks certain elements of responsibility, the contracting officer shall comply with the procedures in Subpart 19.6. When a certificate of competency is issued for a small business concern (see Subpart 19.6), the contracting officer may accept the factors covered by the certificate without further inquiry.

(b) Support documentation. Documents and reports supporting a determination of responsibility or nonresponsibility, including any preaward survey reports and any applicable Certificate of Competency, must be included in the contract file.

9.105-3  Disclosure of preaward information.

(a) Except as provided in Subpart 24.2, Freedom of Information Act, information (including the preaward survey report) accumulated for purposes of determining the responsibility of a prospective contractor shall not be released or disclosed outside the Government.

(b) The contracting officer may discuss preaward survey information with the prospective contractor before determining responsibility. After award, the contracting officer or, if it is appropriate, the head of the surveying activity or a designee may discuss the findings of the preaward survey with the company surveyed.

(c) Preaward survey information may contain proprietary or source selection information and should be marked with the appropriate legend and protected accordingly (see 3.104-4).

9.106  Preaward surveys.

9.106-1  Conditions for preaward surveys.

(a) A preaward survey is normally required only when the information on hand or readily available to the contracting officer, including information from commercial sources, is not sufficient to make a determination regarding responsibility. In addition, if the contemplated contract will have a fixed price at or below the simplified acquisition threshold or will involve the acquisition of commercial items (see Part 12), the contracting officer should not request a preaward survey unless circumstances justify its cost.

(b) When a cognizant contract administration office becomes aware of a prospective award to a contractor about which unfavorable information exists and no preaward survey has been requested, it shall promptly obtain and transmit details to the contracting officer.

(c) Before beginning a preaward survey, the surveying activity shall ascertain whether the prospective contractor is debarred, suspended, or ineligible (see Subpart 9.4). If the prospective contractor is debarred, suspended, or ineligible, the surveying activity shall advise the contracting officer promptly and not proceed with the preaward survey unless specifically requested to do so by the contracting officer.

9.106-2  Requests for preaward surveys.

The contracting officer’s request to the surveying activity (Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor (General), SF 1403) shall—

(a) Identify additional factors about which information is needed;

(b) Include the complete solicitation package (unless it has previously been furnished), and any information indicating prior unsatisfactory performance by the prospective contractor;

(c) State whether the contracting office will participate in the survey;

(d) Specify the date by which the report is required. This date should be consistent with the scope of the survey requested and normally shall allow at least 7 working days to conduct the survey; and

(e) When appropriate, limit the scope of the survey.

9.106-3  Interagency preaward surveys.

When the contracting office and the surveying activity are in different agencies, the procedures of this section 9.106 and Subpart 42.1 shall be followed along with the regulations of the agency in which the surveying activity is located, except that reasonable special requests by the contracting office shall be accommodated.

9.106-4  Reports.

(a) The surveying activity shall complete the applicable parts of SF 1403, Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor (General); SF 1404, Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor—Technical; SF 1405, Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor—Production; SF 1406, Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor—Quality Assurance; SF 1407, Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor—Financial Capability; and SF 1408, Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor—Accounting System; and provide a narrative discussion sufficient to support both the evaluation ratings and the recommendations.

(b) When the contractor surveyed is a small business that has received preferential treatment on an ongoing contract under Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 637) or has received a Certificate of Competency during the last 12 months, the surveying activity shall consult the appropriate Small Business Administration field office before making an affirmative recommendation regarding the contractor’s responsibility or nonresponsibility.

(c) When a preaward survey discloses previous unsatisfactory performance, the surveying activity shall specify the extent to which the prospective contractor plans, or has taken, corrective action. Lack of evidence that past failure to meet contractual requirements was the prospective contractor’s fault does not necessarily indicate satisfactory performance. The narrative shall report any persistent pattern of need for costly and burdensome Government assistance (e.g., engineering, inspection, or testing) provided in the Government’s interest but not contractually required.

(d) When the surveying activity possesses information that supports a recommendation of complete award without an on-site survey and no special areas for investigation have been requested, the surveying activity may provide a short-form preaward survey report. The short-form report shall consist solely of the Preaward Survey of Prospective Contractor (General), SF 1403. Sections III and IV of this form shall be completed and block 21 shall be checked to show that the report is a short-form preaward report.

9.107  Surveys of nonprofit agencies serving people who are blind or have other severe disabilities under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Program.

(a) The Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (Committee), as authorized by 41 U.S.C. 46-48c, determines what supplies and services Federal agencies are required to purchase from JWOD participating nonprofit agencies serving people who are blind or have other severe disabilities (see Subpart 8.7). The Committee is required to find a JWOD participating nonprofit agency capable of furnishing the supplies or services before the nonprofit agency can be designated as a mandatory source under the JWOD Program. The Committee may request a contracting office to assist in assessing the capabilities of a nonprofit agency.

(b) The contracting office, upon request from the Committee, shall request a capability survey from the activity responsible for performing preaward surveys, or notify the Committee that the JWOD participating nonprofit agency is capable, with supporting rationale, and that the survey is waived. The capability survey will focus on the technical and production capabilities and applicable preaward survey elements to furnish specific supplies or services being considered for addition to the Procurement List.

(c) The contracting office shall use the Standard Form 1403 to request a capability survey of organizations employing people who are blind or have other severe disabilities.

(d) The contracting office shall furnish a copy of the completed survey, or notice that the JWOD participating nonprofit agency is capable and the survey is waived, to the Executive Director, Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled.

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