By: Edward T. DeLisle & Maria L. Panichelli
When it comes to problem-solving, we are often encouraged to “think outside the box.” The idea is to be creative; to look beyond the norm. Well, when it comes to certifying a claim, you’re probably better off simply doing what the FAR tells you to do. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals made this point clear in URS Energy & Construction v. Dept. of Energy.
As most contractors are aware, all claims over $100,000 must be accompanied by a certification. FAR § 33.207(a). FAR §33.207(c) sets forth the exact language that such a certification must contain. That language is as follows:
“I certify that the claim is made in good faith; that the supporting data are accurate and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief; that the amount requested accurately reflects the contract adjustment for which the Contractor believes the Government is liable; and that I am duly authorized to certify on behalf of the Contractor.”
In URS Energy & Construction, the contractor certified its claim to the Department of Energy using language that differed from the FAR:
“I certify that this invoice is correct and in accordance with the terms of the contract and that the costs incurred herein have been incurred, represent the payments made by the Contractor except as otherwise authorized in the payments provision of the contract, and properly reflect the work performed.”
The government asked the CBCA to dismiss the contractor’s claim on the basis that the certification used was defective, thereby depriving the CBCA of subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.
In ruling on the motion, the CBCA noted that “technical” defects in a certification can be cured; however, “[i]f the certification is made with intentional, reckless or negligent disregard for the applicable regulation, it is not correctable.” The CBCA found that the contractor’s claim was made with “intentional, reckless or negligent disregard” because the contractor wholly failed to include a certification that “the claim is made in good faith,” or that “the supporting data [was] accurate and complete to the best of [the contractor’s] knowledge and belief.” Moreover, the certification failed to include a statement that the person signing the certification was duly authorized to certify the claim on behalf of the contractor. Accordingly, the CBCA dismissed the case.
The lesson: certifying a claim is not the time to be creative. The language in FAR §33.207(c) must be reviewed carefully and, unless there is very good reason to diverge from what is identified therein, you are better off simply incorporating it verbatim into your claim. If you cannot attest to those issues required by the FAR, you should think twice about filing a claim at all, for submitting a defective certification, which is true, is far better than submitting a false certification. That is something you should avoid at all costs.