National Association of Government Contractors

Agencies Seek to Improve Performance Reporting

Federal agencies are exploring ways to more effectively review contractors’ past performance, including harnessing bots, according to acquisition officials.
CPARS past performance reports are critical to agencies, as well as to contracting companies. They document vendors’ performance on contracts previously awarded and completed, and federal agencies rely on the reports for market research for upcoming contracts. A mark below “exceptional” or “very good” on CPARS can mean the next agency passes on a vendor for its contract.
Although, it is understood that vendor performance evaluations submitted by federal agencies to the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) are crucial to companies’ survival in the federal marketplace, however improving CPARS is not a priority for agencies.
Working under the directive of a federal policy that now requires agencies to explain why they give contractors higher ratings – but often operating with a smaller contracting staff with an increasing amount of duties – CPARS scores are grouping into the “satisfactory” category. This trend is believed to be a result of over-worked staff choosing an easy to justify category. Unfortunately, the lackluster “satisfactory” rating may limit chances of being selected for future contracts. 
Agencies are looking for ways to more effectively provide more accurate feedback.
Katrina Brisbon, the assistant administrator at the Transportation Security Administration’s office of contracting and procurement, acknowledges that her agency measures how quickly and effectively contracting personnel complete reviews in CPARS as part of their job performance reviews. As a result, CPARS reporting among contracting officers at her agency from 60% completion rates months ago to 90% now.
The IRS is looking to automation to bring some uniformity to the CPARS reporting. Shanna Webbers, chief procurement officer at the tax agency, said the IRS is thinking about how to apply some kind of automated technology to help the agency with CPARS reports.
Since CPARS reports are written by individual contracting officers, they can sometimes be subjective, lengthy and may not contain uniform information on contractor performance, Webbers said.
The IRS, she said, is thinking carefully about using a bot to help tease out relevant, common information and might begin a pilot to test the idea, possibly linking it with an existing robotic processing automation trial that gathers vendor information for the agency’s contracting officers.

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