FAR Council Suspends Blacklisting Rules Until May 11

The Federal Acquisition Regulation Council March 9 suspended until May 11 so-called blacklisting rules that required federal agencies to consider a host of new criteria in awarding government contracts.

The action was taken "to give agency officials the opportunity for further review and consideration of new regulations," according to the Federal Register.

The FAR Council is "staying implementation of the rule, and apparently opening a FAR case to review the rule as a whole. I think both are important and positive," said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an industry group in Arlington, Va.

The FAR Council issues the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which sets the standards for government procurement. FAR Council members are the General Services Administration, NASA, the Defense Department and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget.

The rules required contracting officers to take into account bidders' compliance with labor, tax, employment, antitrust, environmental and consumer protection laws when determining if a company is a responsible business and therefore eligible to win contracts.

The rules, which were opposed by industry and some government agencies, became enforceable Jan. 19, one day before President Bush took office. Supporters, including organized labor, said the rules would protect the government from unscrupulous vendors. Opponents, including information technology industry groups, called them arbitrary and unclear.

The governmentwide delay of the rules temporarily resolves conflicting procurement practices. Several agencies had used a "class deviation" to delay implementation of the rules as they sought clarification and training for contracting officers, while others began using the new rules.

Now all agencies must revert to their regular procedures, which require contracting officers to make sure bidders are not debarred or suspended from federal work, have sufficient resources to perform the work and do not have a record of unsatisfactory performance for reasons within their control.

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