Don’t Fear the USG’s Contracting Officers (But Be Polite During Disputes)

Image by gideon_wright via Flickr

If you are a prime contractor to the U.S. Government (USG), chances are you fear the USG.  Not “fear” in the animal sense. But fear in the sense that you may be avoiding discussion about big problems with your contract.  Fear you may upset the USG, and be viewed as biting the hand that feeds you.

Here is why you should get over the fear, and why you should try to address contracting concerns you have with the USG.

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USG Asking You Do More Work Per the Contract Than Originally Contemplated? Know Your Rights

Piles of work
Image by skuds via Flickr

When the government asks you to do more work than called for under your contract, do you know your options and rights?

Your options, it may seem, are: (1) to complain or refuse and risk angering your customer; or (2) to do the extra work.

Neither option is appealing.

Many USG contractors choose #2, and just do the extra work on the assumption they will earn favor with the USG for future contracts and/or they will recoup their losses later.

These assumptions could leave you broke, with no recourse to pursue the government for additional payment.

Before you do the work, you should insist on a change order and compensation for the extra cost and/or extension of time to fulfill the government’s request.

If you have already agreed to do the work with no change order, you may still have legal options under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to pursue compensation for the extra work.

An attorney can assist with the change order process to ensure you receive appropriate compensation up front for any extra work.  Or if you have already done the work, an attorney can help identify ways you may be able to still obtain compensation.

Whether you try to handle these matters on your own or with an attorney, keep in mind that when the government asks you to do extra work, you should not passively agree and hope to get payment later.  You should consider taking action immediately, to preserve your right to seek additional compensation.

Often, contractors are afraid of acting, feeling they don’t want to rock the boat with the USG.  But the USG can be reasonable if you approach disputes in an appropriate manner.  (How you do approach disputes appropriately, you may ask?  We’ll post an article soon about that).

Going to Buy Local? Plan Ahead, Check if On Spec

Buy Fresh, Buy Local (lomo)
Image by stevegarfield via Flickr

A common problem for USG contractors is running into delays due to local suppliers’ goods being worse than anticipated, or even non-existent.

This post describes (1) planning to avoid such delays due to local problems; or (2) if it’s too late, effectively dealing with such delays.

Bidding Stage, and Failure to Research the Local Supply Market

At the bidding stage, a USG contractor obviously has a lot to think about. Among the issues, you of course will consider include what types of supplies you’d need to do the contractual work, how much such supplies typically cost, etc.

One issue, while simple however, may go unexamined by USG contractors during bidding: whether the local market can actually supply the goods you assume it can.

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Questions for Your New Attorney, Starting With #1: How Will I Get a Return on My Investment of Legal Fees?

question mark
Image via Wikipedia

Has your business avoided contacting an attorney because you’re concerned it could be a “waste” of money?

That’s an understandable concern. Sometimes, attorneys fees are not in fact a good investment.  Perhaps you’ve had a prior experience where you paid an attorney by the hour, and he spun his or her wheels without getting you anywhere.  That is, you did not get a favorable result: your main result was paying out legal fee money.

It’s true that in such instances, your money is poorly invested.  After all, you don’t pay an attorney just to do legal work.  You don’t pay an attorney for fancy briefs or documents.  You pay an attorney to improve your situation: to get a better financial result than you started with.

There are attorneys out there who understand this, and who strive to provide value to clients.

So how do you find an attorney who provides value?  It starts with the questions you ask.

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