Record-Keeping and the Contract File
- What are the COR's record-keeping responsibilities during performance of the contract?
- What are some good practices for the COR to follow in maintaining the contract file?
- What if the COR is not asked to maintain a contract file?
- What does the contract file include?
- In establishing a contract file, what must the COR consider?
- Why is the maintenance of the contract file so important?
- The COR and Past Performance Information
- What is the agency past performance file?
- What are the COR's responsibilities with regard to past performance information?
What are the COR's record-keeping responsibilities during performance of the contract?
CORs are required to keep records in a file that document their actions under the contract. The documentation must constitute a complete history of the COR's actions, in order to:
Provide background information that will help the COR make informed decisions at each step of the acquisition process
Provide support for actions taken by the COR
Provide information for reviews and investigations
Furnish essential facts in the event of litigation or congressional inquiries.
FAR 1.604 states:
The COR shall maintain a file for each assigned contract. The file must include, as a minimum:
(a) A copy of the CO's letter of designation and other documents describing the COR's duties and responsibilities
(b) A copy of the contract administration functions delegated to a contract administration office which may not be delegated to the COR, and
(c) Documentation of COR actions taken in accordance with the delegation of authority.
Specific record-keeping functions will be identified in the letter of designation. The COR may be required, as noted in the letter of designation, to maintain portions of the official contract file.
What are some good practices for the COR to follow in maintaining the contract file?
The COR should:
Include the contract number on each record in the file and on all correspondence relating to the contract
Be sure that the CO receives a copy of all correspondence
Give the utmost care to proprietary data, as well as classified and business-sensitive information
Not rely on memory, but document events on the day or next working day after they occur
Document telephone conversations
Be prepared to take notes at even informal meetings
Create separate files for each contract when keeping records on his or her computer and identify each for ready access (this will be helpful when speed in gathering materials is important).
What if the COR is not asked to maintain a contract file?
Responsibility for keeping the contract files may be decentralized and responsibility for their maintenance assigned to various organizational elements or to other outside offices. In accordance with FAR 4.801 and 4.802, each office performing contracting, contract administration, or paying functions is required to establish files containing the records for all contractual actions. Files to be established include:
A file for cancelled solicitations
An official file for each contract that consists of:
1. The contracting office contract file
2. The contract administration office contract file (if contract administration duties are delegated by the CO)
3. The paying office contract file
A file, such as a contractor general file, containing information about:
1. No particular contract, but a number of projects performed by the contractor
2. The contractor in general (e.g., the contractor's management systems, past performance, or capabilities).
Additionally, the CO may delegate portions of the contract administration office contract file (a part of the official contracting office contract file) to be maintained by the COR. This file should contain copies of all documents supporting actions taken by the COR in performance of the contract. When the COR is not asked to maintain the contract administration file or portions of it, he or she should nonetheless document and maintain records in a COR work file, because CORs are routinely asked for copies of documents by the CO and other government officials involved in the contract.
What does the contract file include?
A contract file may consist of items in paper, electronic, or microfilm format and should contain sufficient information to constitute a complete history of the transaction (see Figure 5-5).
In establishing a contract file, what must the COR consider?
The COR's contract file must be characterized by the following: Effective documentation of contract actions
FIGURE 5-5. Contents of the Contract File
Ready accessibility to principal users
A minimal number of files; avoid duplicate files and multiple working files as much as possible
The safeguarding of classified documents or source selection information
Conformance with agency regulations for file location and maintenance.
Why is the maintenance of the contract file so important?
In any dispute with a contractor, the government will enter into litigation, whether the contractor appeals to a court in the judicial system or to an administrative board. In civil cases, the legal system deals mainly with facts, usually coming from files. Consequently, the more accurate and complete contract files are, the more likely the government will prevail in a dispute with a contractor. There are cases in which an administrative board reviews only the files that are submitted and makes a decision based on what they contain. Files prepared for the court will probably be heavily based on COR input. COR files are a part of the contract file and must be maintained in accordance with agency and CO instructions.
The COR and Past Performance Information
This file, which is a part of the contractor general file, documents general information regarding the contractor's past performance (e.g., information on the contractor's management systems, past performance data, or other historical files). These types of data are routinely collected by the government when contracting for supplies or services and are relevant for future procurements. The information in the file is usually not based on the contractor's performance of a specific contract; it may cover more than one contract. Each agency determines the content and format used to maintain the past performance file.
What is the agency past performance file?
What are the COR's responsibilities with regard to past performance information?
One of the responsibilities of a COR may be to provide information regarding the contractor's:
Record of conforming to contract requirements
Standards of good workmanship
Record of forecasting and controlling costs
History of reasonable and cooperative behavior
Commitment to customer satisfaction
Business-like concern for the interest of the customer.
CORs may be asked to provide regular input on the contractor's performance during the contract period. These interim reports are then incorporated into a final evaluation at the end of the contract period. The evaluation is provided to the contractor, who may review and dispute the content.
CORs may also be asked to respond to contractor rebuttals or consider additional information that might shed new light on the performance issues involved. CORs need to be aware of these requirements and should be prepared to provide responses to rebuttals or new data as needed. An official ranked above the CO will consider and decide the outcome of any disagreements between the government and the contractor.