An Organizational Conflict of Interest (OCI) is when a person is unable or potentially unable to render impartial assistance or advice to the Government, or the person’s objectivity in performing the contract work is or might be otherwise impaired, or a person has an unfair competitive advantage. COI is a situation in which a person, who is in a position of trust, has a competing professional or personal interest.
OCIs are becoming more and more common as the Government moves towards the contracting of services that were traditionally done by Government employees and as the defense industry merges and consolidates. OCIs may arise due to the following reasons:
- Biased Ground Rules: A firm has in some sense set the ground rules for the competition for another Government contract by, e.g., writing the Statement of Work (SOW) or the specification such that it could skew the competition in favor of itself.
- Unequal Access to Information: A firm has access to nonpublic information as part of its performance of a government contract and where that information may provide the firm an unfair competitive advantage in a later competition for a Government contract.
- Impaired Objectivity: A firm’s work under one Government contract could entail its evaluating itself or a related entity, either through an assessment of performance under another contract or an evaluation of proposals.
If the Program Contracting Officer (PCO) and Program Manager (PM) discover that a potential conflict exists, the PM & Program Management Office (PMO) will assist the Contracting Officer in an investigation to identify all actual and potential OCIs. Once an OCI has been determined to exist, the Contracting Officer will provide a written analysis, which includes the following:
- The course of action for avoiding, neutralizing, or mitigating the conflict
- A draft solicitation provision
- A proposed contract clause
- A request for a mitigation plan from the potential Offeror/Contractor(s)
All offeror’s should be required to accept the proposed contract clause as a part of their proposal and either affirmatively state that they have no OCI issues or submit a mitigation plan. The Contracting Officer, with assistance from the PM/Program Office and advice of Counsel, must evaluate the OCI issue for each offeror and determine:
- whether that offeror has an OCI issue and, if so,
- whether a mitigation plan can mitigate or neutralize the OCI for that offeror and, if so,
- whether the submitted plan is adequate.
- A mitigation plan should include, at a minimum, a Contractor-Government Non-Disclosure Agreement, and a Contractor-Employee Non-Disclosure Agreement.
In the event that the apparent successful offer has an OCI issue, and if the Contracting Officer has determined that the offeror has submitted an adequate plan for mitigating the issue, a recommendation for approval of the mitigation plan will be submitted to the Chief of the Contracting Office. After the mitigation plan is approved, the contract may be awarded to the successful offeror. If for some reason a conflict of interest exists that cannot be avoided or mitigated and the Contracting Officer finds that it is in the best interest of the Government to award the contract in despite of a conflict of interest, a request for waiver will be submitted to the Head of the Contracting Activity (HCA) in accordance with FAR Subpart 9.5 – Organizational and Consultant Conflicts of Interest.
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