Panoptic Enterprises' FEDERAL CONTRACTS DISPATCH
DATE: January 24, 2003
SUBJECT: Veterans Affairs Acquisition Regulation (VAAR); Simplified Acquisition Procedures for Health-Care Resources
SOURCE: Federal Register, January 24, 2003, Vol. 68, No. 16, page 3465
AGENCIES: Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
ACTION: Final Rule
SYNOPSIS: VA is adding VAAR Part 873, Simplified Acquisition Procedures for Health-Care Resources, to implement the Veterans' Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-262), which authorizes VA to adopt simplified acquisition procedures for health-care resources consisting of commercial services or the use of medical equipment or space.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The VAAR is Chapter 8 of Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations. It is available on the Internet at http://www.va.gov/oa&mm/vaar/.
For more on the proposed rule, see the June 7, 2001, FEDERAL CONTRACTS DISPATCH "Veterans Affairs Acquisition Regulation (VAAR); Simplified Acquisition Procedures for Health-Care Resources."
EFFECTIVE DATE: February 24, 2003.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dennis Foley, 202-273-9225, Office of the General Counsel, Professional Staff Group V; or Don Kaliher, 202-273-8819, Acquisition Resources Service, Office of Acquisition and Materiel Management, Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420.
SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION: On June 7, 2001, the VA published a proposed rule to add VAAR Part 873 to establish simplified procedures for the competitive acquisition of health-care resources consisting of commercial services or the use of medical equipment or space. VA was authorized to develop the simplified procedures by Public Law 104-262, which stated that procurements under such simplified procedures could be conducted "without regard to any law or regulation that would otherwise require the use of competitive procedures." However, Public Law 104-262 also required the simplified procedures to "permit all responsible sources, as appropriate, to submit a bid, proposal, or quotation (as appropriate) for the resources to be procured and provide for the consideration by the Department of bids, proposals, or quotations so submitted." VA interpreted this provision as allowing VA to limit competition to the extent determined reasonable for the circumstances of each particular acquisition.
The key provisions of the proposed VAAR Part 873 were:
- VAAR 873.101, Policy, stated that the VAAR Part 873 provisions were to be used in conjunction with FAR, but that VAAR Part 873 would take precedence over FAR and other parts of VAAR.
- VAAR 873.104, Competition Requirements, required the contracting officer to "seek competition to the maximum extent practicable."
- VAAR 873.107, Socioeconomic Programs, permitted the head of the contracting activity (HCA) to waive the requirement to set aside an acquisition for small businesses if there is reasonable expectation that reasonably priced bids, proposals, or quotations will be received from two or more responsible small businesses. However, "the procedures of FAR 19.8 [Contracting with the Small Business Administration (the 8(a) Program)] shall be followed where a responsible 8(a) contractor has been identified," and the certificate of competency procedures in FAR Subpart 19.6, Certificates of Competency and Determinations of Responsibility, are to be followed.
- VAAR 873.108, Publicizing Contract Actions, required that acquisitions exceeding the $100,000 simplified acquisition threshold be publicly announced "utilizing a medium designed to obtain competition to the maximum extent practicable...The publication medium may include the Internet, including the Governmentwide point of entry (GPE), and local, regional or national publications or journals, as appropriate, at the discretion of the contracting officer, depending on the complexity of the acquisition."
- VAAR 873.109, General Requirements for Acquisition of Health-Care Resources, permitted late offers and late quotations to be considered if in the best interest of the government. Also, VAAR 852.273-70, Late Offers, would be added to reflect this.
- VAAR 873.111, Acquisition Strategies for Health-Care Resources, permitted the use of simplified acquisition procedures similar to those in Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 13, Simplified Acquisition Procedures, regardless of the value of the acquisition. In addition, it permitted contracting officers to use alternative negotiating techniques, including but not limited to:
- Indicating to offerors a price, contract term or condition, commercially available feature, and/or requirement (beyond any requirement or target specified in the solicitation) that offerors will have to improve upon or meet, as appropriate, in order to remain competitive; and
- Posting offered prices electronically or otherwise (without disclosing the identity of the offerors) and permitting revisions of offers based on this information.
- New VAAR 852.273-71, Alternative Negotiation Techniques, reflected this, and new VAAR 852.273-72, Alternative Evaluation, explained how prices would be posted, provide guidance on submitting offers, and advise offerors how options would be evaluated.
- VAAR 873.113, Exchanges with Offerors, permitted the contracting officer to conduct exchanges with industry throughout the acquisition process. "The nature and extent of exchanges between the government and offerors is a matter of contracting officer judgment. Clarifications, communications, and discussions, as provided for in the FAR, are concepts not applicable to acquisitions under this Part 873." In addition, exchanges need not be conducted with all offerors. New VAAR 852.273-74, Award Without Exchanges, reflected this.
- VAAR 873.115, Proposal Revisions, permitted the contracting officer to request proposal revisions as often as needed during the proposal evaluation process.
- New VAAR 852.273-73, Evaluation -- Health-Care Resources, permitted the contracting officer to provide "evaluation information" instead of evaluation factors. Also, the contracting officer was required to state how the evaluation information is weighted, but he or she was required to state the relative importance of the evaluation information.
No comments on the proposed rule were received, so VA is finalizing the proposed rule without change.
Since VAAR Part 873 applies only to acquisitions for health-care resources, it applies only to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), one of the three administrations that comprise VA.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Panoptic Enterprises at 703-451-5953 or by e-mail to Panoptic@FedGovContracts.com.
Copyright 2003 by Panoptic Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.
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