HUD Contracting: Clarifications Issued

Media is only as valuable as the integrity of those whom transmit such.  When something is pointed out which requires clarification the media source’s credibility stands on its ability to appropriately respond.  This article is both a clarification and retraction of the term robo signing.  To be honest, I was not asked to clarify or retract.  I feel strongly, though, that when information is provided on a given topic it needs to be distributed in a timely fashion.  That is my duty to those of you whom give me the privilege and honor of being my readers.

So, we reported on what we considered extremely unconventional execution of signatures on 15 Contracts with respect to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) M&M III.  After a waltz around the Beltway we finally found someone whom was helpful both in clarification of the process and in identifying possible changes to better equip the general public in their understanding of the entire quagmire we tend to refer to as federal contracting.  I want to dwell upon this for a moment as I think it is extremely important to point out that this situation could have easily been tossed into what we called Circular File 36-Alpha (the trash can).  That didn’t happen.  This Source, in my opinion, went above and beyond the call of duty.

Truthfully, you’re only looking at a signature sheet, because of the posting requirement in FBO [Federal Business Opportunity].  If you look at Undefinitized Contract Action (UCA or letter contracts) case history in either GAO [Government Accountability Office] or COFC [Court of Federal Claims], there are several cases where email approval and physical performance were sufficient without a physical signature ever occurring[.] Procedurally speaking, Agency procedures are very similar across the Federal Government.  Program will always approve/sign the J&A/JOFOC [Justification for Other than Full and Open Competition] first, since they are the creator of the Exhibit-1 which makes the argument of why competition was not sought.

So, here is General Patton’s proverbial camel’s nose under Rommel’s tent.  The nebulous world of federal contracting, to the uninitiated, is daunting at best.  That is why I added the “[ … ]” to explain the acronyms as they are not part of my Source’s quote.  With that said, let’s get into the heart of the matter.  My original quandary with the whole situation was that there were not unique signatures on each and every Contract.  While in the private sector that is a maxim of law, within the federal contracting community it is not absolutely necessary as you will read.

 In the case of these documents, Ivery Himes signed first on behalf of Program.  After signing, she forwarded her email approval along with a single scanned copy of the signature sheets.  [The single set of sheets were printed and signed by] the Contracting Officer prior to forwarding [for] approval and rescanning the same sheets to Fred Graves, HUD’s Competition Advocate.  Based on the dollar amounts for each action, Fred Graves was the final approver, and the documents were not executed until he approved/signed off.

This is critical information, in my opinion, as it does several things which you will read in a moment.  First, it demystifies my original set of questions pertaining to how did a single set of signatures authorize 15 Contracts.  A Chain of Command was followed and I believe the Statement.  Second, there would be an electronic log of samesaid, so it would pass muster in COFC.  Now, I want to lay to rest the situation pertaining to the Page Numbering.  Also, understand there is no Federal Contracting For Dummies Guide (damn, maybe we will publish one),

The page numbering is only off, because there is both a form (cover sheet and signature sheet) and an Exhibit-1 attachment.  This is HUD’s specified format and is unique to the Agency

However, you do raise a good point that it can be confusing, so I will raise this to the current Policy Director.  Maybe, we will use A-1, A-2, etc. on the Exhibit-1 document in the future to avoid duplicate page numbers.  [Editor’s emphasis].

Finally, remember the dates that were executed between  21 September and 23 September 2011?  We have clarification as to how they are legitimate.

There is no single wet ink signature page for any of the individual actions, as scanned/faxed copies of signatures are allowable in both GAO and COFC, as are email approvals (i.e. no physical signature)[.] Execution was performed in accordance with FAR, HUDAR and other Agency policies.  Upload into FBO is required within 14 days of execution, so you may also see some variances in upload dates, since they were posted by the named Administrative CO’s for each action.  However, [ … ] they were all in fact executed the same day, because [of] have Fred Graves’ email approvals[.]

So, several lessons learned here.  First, HUD has proven that they are forthcoming and honest in their replies.  By my calculations the responses submitted took both time and effort; they tended to show integrity which I feel is lacking, overall, in the Industry.  Second, what appeared to be robo signing was, in fact, a process which had a logical progression from beginning to end; a chain of evidence for want of better words has been produced.  Third, the hazy netherworld of federal government contracting is more of an art than a skill.  In this I mean that as a US Citizen I could find absolutely no readily available information which would have explained my hypothesis away.  Finally, the convoluted system of Public Affairs which HUD administers ultimately produced results albeit from very unlikely corners.

I would like to take the time to apologize if my speculation has ruffled any feathers.  I believe that my article was well documented and the mountain of correspondence would prove such.  With that said, though, it is the just and honorable thing to do.  Second, I would like to commend my Source for being candidly honest.  The quotes above are only a small portion of the entire dialogue.  The stereotype of the Beltway bureaucracy has a mold that has been broken in this instant case.  Finally, this closes a Chapter on M&M III with respect to the 15 Contracts.  I am satisfied and I hope that my readers are as well.

 

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