Procurement Integrity

The federal government has established specific requirements to ensure procurement integrity in federal contract activities. Guideline 308 (text below) summarizes these requirements.

As part of these requirements, the University must certify that there have been no violations of the Procurement Integrity Law (or report any such violations) when a proposal for a contract or modification to a contract is over $100,000. In addition to an institutional certification, individuals who have directly and substantially participated in the preparation of the proposal must complete certification forms. The indivividual forms will remain on file in University Research Administration. – January 2008

The Procurement Integrity Law became effective on December 1, 1990. This law, officially known as Section 27 of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act, as amended, establishes requirements to ensure “procurement integrity” in federal government contract actions. According to this law, whenever the University is in the process of making a proposal for or obtaining a federal contract, the University and its employees are prohibited from:

  • making or discussing an offer of employment or business opportunity with a contracting official of the agency;
  • offering money, gratuities or anything of value to a contracting official; or
  • soliciting or obtaining “proprietary or source selection” material about the contract from an officer or employee of the agency before the award is made.

Violations of the law could result in civil or criminal penalties against the contractor, its employees, and the government employee involved. The law’s provision would apply to any Government contract but apparently not to grants. When a contract or modification is over $100,000, the University is obliged to issue a certification that there have been no violations or report any violations. Also, each person participating substantially in the preparation of the proposal is to certify that he or she knows of the law’s requirement and will report any information about possible violations. University Research Administration will prepare the necessary certificates and contact principal investigators to sign individual certificates. Anyone who knows of a possible violation of the law should notify that office. Copies of the law and interim regulations may be obtained from that office.

The part of the law that prohibits soliciting or obtaining propriety or source selection material may need explanation. “Proprietary information” would be information submitted by another organization competing for a government contract; normally it is marked “proprietary,” and could relate to costs or pricing data or other information owned by the other organization. “Source selection material” normally is supposed to be so marked by the agency, but could include unmarked information, the disclosure of which would jeopardize the integrity or completion of the procurement, such as listing of other proposers or their prices, technical evaluations, rankings, source selection board recommendations, etc. Obviously, investigators should not seek such information from government sources in advance of an award.

Faculty who serve on advisory boards or as consultants to agencies who are involved in the process of awarding contracts should be careful not to disclose propriety or source selection material obtained while working for the agency. Further, if a faculty member’s service for a federal government agency includes work on a particular contract, the faculty member will be prohibited by the law from acting for the University in negotiating, or planning strategy for negotiations for the contract or any modification—or even performing research supported by the contract—for a two-year period after the faculty member worked on the matter for the agency.

Persons having questions about the law should contact University Research Administration.