Contracting for Conferences
Purpose: The purpose of this Acquisition Flash is to inform the VA Acquisition Workforce of new requirements when contracting for conferences.
Dated: January 31, 2013
VA Acquisition Regulation (VAAR) Section Impacted: N/A
Effective Date: Immediately
Background: The VA Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) identified significant issues while investigating contracts for conferences. To prevent the appearance of program abuse or misuse of funds, the following guidance is provided.
Applicability: All contracts for conferences
Action Required: Contracting officers shall not include room upgrades as a contract requirement in Requests for Proposals (RFP) and Requests for Quotes (RFQ). However, routine practices of the hotel industry, available to the general public, should not be excluded from employee acceptance. The rationale for this policy is employees may accept goods that are procured by the government under a government contract because the gift prohibition no longer applies. (5 C.F.R. § 2635.203(b)(7)). Thus, the use of a premium quality room by a government employee is not a violation of the standards of conduct. Assuming the Government paid the same price for upgraded rooms as for standard rooms, and assuming the VA employee did not direct the acquisition of upgraded rooms, use of public office for private gain is not implicated.
Pre-planning site visits are not necessary for market research, because conference information is generally available on-line or at the request of the Government Subject-Matter Expert. Travel will not be undertaken prior to conference approval. Pre-Award site visits may be authorized by the Contracting Officer (CO) based on pre-award processes. A post-award/kick-off meeting shall be held to include the Contracting Officer Representative (COR), Responsible Conference Executive (RCE), designated Program Manager (PM), and CO to ensure that all parties properly understands the terms and conditions of the contract.
VA will dedicate a RCE to each major conference (i.e., costs to VA exceed $100K) and work with a warranted Contracting Officer (CO). Acquisitions greater than $3,000 must be executed by a warranted CO in accordance with existing acquisition regulations. For assignment of a warranted CO, the RCE must contact their responsible Head of Contracting Activity (HCA). The post-award process will be strengthened to ensure proper RCE/PM oversight and management of post-award delivery of services and commodities as well as ensure review of all deliverables to include invoices.
Additional Information: Questions or concerns should be addressed to the Office of Acquisition and Logistics (003A), Procurement Policy and Warrant Management Service (003A2A) at firstname.lastname@example.org.