The Federal Acquisition Regulation, at FAR 36.201, requires government personnel to be fair and accurate in the evaluation of a construction contractor’s performance, but there is the inherent potential for an unfair and overreaching evaluation. Government personnel are required to use DD Form 2626 for performance evaluations. This form lists five major factors to be evaluated: quality control, effectiveness of management, timely performance, compliance with labor standards and compliance with safety standards. If, for example, a contractor’s employee has an accident and sustains an injury, a government evaluator could rate the contractor as unsatisfactory for violation of the safety standards, marginal in effectiveness of management (jobsite supervision, compliance with regulations (safety), and marginal in the implementation of its quality control plan. All of this would stem from a single incident.
In prosecutorial circles, this is known as “stacking the charges,” meaning that every possible charge is listed so that the prosecutor may plea bargain a deal on a lesser included charge. However, in the case of a performance evaluation, there is little, if any, “bargaining” with the evaluator. The potential exists for the government evaluator to magnify a single incident into three deficiencies on the contractor’s part, as shown by the real life example above.
The consequences of this approach are serious for a government contractor. The regulations permit a contracting officer to review a contractor’s past performance evaluations in making a responsibility determination in a pending contract award. Therefore, it is important for contractors to insure that their performance evaluations are fair and accurate, particularly since the government is required to retain these evaluations for six years. One of the ways that a contractor may address its performance evaluation is by the submission of written comments to the evaluator. The evaluator must review these written comments, include them with the evaluation, and revise the evaluation, if the evaluator believes such a revision is necessary. However, this process is only available to those contractors who receive an overall “Unsatisfactory” performance rating. According to the regulations, the government is not under any obligation to advise a contractor of a “marginal” performance rating.
Because of the retention and use of the performance evaluations, we recommend that every contractor obtain a copy of its performance evaluation when it completes a project over $550,000.00. If the overall evaluation is either marginal or unsatisfactory, the contractor should submit a written rebuttal within thirty days of receipt and request that the evaluating official review and include these written comments with the performance evaluation. The goal, obviously, is to present a fair and accurate representation of the contractor’s performance and to lessen, if not eliminate, the impact of “stacking the charges” in the evaluation.