How an E-Library Can Help Keep You Compliant

e-library imageDoes this sound familiar? You’re developing a solicitation document and vaguely recall an agency or departmental policy memo or directive that might impact your solicitation. Where is that document? Was it issued last month, maybe last year? Is it still in effect? What did it say? Or worse, you aren’t even aware that a policy impacting your acquisition or contract management situation was even issued!

Unfortunately, it happens. We have all probably experienced this situation at one time or another in our career. It’s easy to inadvertently overlook a policy during solicitation development or contract administration. So how can an agency or organization prevent or minimize this from occurring?

The answer is an e-library.

Information Ensures Compliance

Ensuring acquisition regulatory compliance in an environment with many regulations and policies, from various and numerous sources, is challenging, but necessary. Contracting Officers, Contract Administrators, Procurement Analysts, Contracting Officer Representatives, and project teams all need to be aware of and know where to locate acquisition and contract management regulations and policies. Solicitation writing systems generally incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) clauses and an agency’s general provisions, terms and conditions, and clauses. More often than not, however, Contracting Officer and acquisition teams must rely on their own awareness and knowledge of other policies and regulations impacting their particular acquisition or contract management situation. They need a one-stop-policy shop!

Ideally it is best to plan ahead before a critical policy is overlooked. Although getting ahead of the curve is better, developing a centralized list, matrix, or electronic “library” of acquisition and contract management policies and regulations can be done at any time. It can be a daunting task getting started, but think of these three simple words – identify, categorize, and organize.

If funding and resources are plentiful, a sophisticated system to manage all the applicable policies can be built and maintained. But let’s face it; an abundance of funding and resources for this purpose is not typical for most agencies and organizations. The basic steps outlined below can be executed by most organizations.

IDENTIFY: Dedicate resources (cross-functional work groups and advisors are ideal) to identify policies, rules, and directives from all sources (internal and external to the agency /organization), and to track legislative mandates and laws that can impact current policies and regulations, or necessitate new ones. Since the FAR and its supplements (for federally funded acquisitions), and state procurement regulations (for state funded acquisitions) are typically the go-to acquisition professional’s resource, it’s the other sources’ policies that need to be identified.

Stay informed by subscribing to email alerts on the sources’ websites to receive notifications of changes in policies or laws. Examples of sources:

  • Office of Management and Budget Memorandums,
  • State Regulations/Codes/Procurement Laws, if applicable
  • Agency Regulations supplements – Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations, General Service Administration Acquisition Regulations, State Agency Acquisition Regulations
  • Organizational acquisition policies and directives

CATEGORIZE: After identifying the policies, group them by acquisition topic or subtopic for easier identification. The acquisition life cycle’s major and sub phases is a good starting point (e.g., pre-solicitation, award, contract management). From there, identify major and sub-acquisition phase categories. Categories can be tailored for the agency or organization. Major category examples:

  • Acquisition planning
  • Contract funding
  • Publicizing contract actions
  • Past performance and responsibility determinations

ORGANIZE for EASY ACCESS: Once identified and categorized, policies and regulations should be organized and “collected and stored” in a central location with easy access for acquisition teams, whether in-house or in field offices. Organizations can create lists or matrices with hyperlinks to the original document source, rather than managing the actual documents in-house. For instance, link to OMB memorandums on the OMB website. Most offices distribute important information via emails or posting to a website that links to the original source document. If an original document is not electronically maintained by the original source (e.g., departmental memo), organizations can electronically save those documents in a database for future access.  Links should be routinely (e.g., quarterly) tested to ensure they’re kept current.

Benefits of establishing a policy list or matrix include:

  • Greater compliance
  • Informed project teams
  • Faster document development time due to less rework

Key things to remember to get started: identify, categorize, organize, and make the information easily accessible.

Fast Clicks

My Top 5 Federal Acquisition Policy Sources

 Federal Acquisition Regulations, Loose-leaf Changes
 Federal Register
 GSA Acquisition Manual, Loose-leaf Changes
 Office of Management & Budget, Memorandums
 Office of Management & Budget, Circulars: Procurement

 

What’s your experience with (or solution for) managing numerous acquisition and contract management policies and agency directives?

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