What Is the Competition In Contracting Act?
Established by Congress in 1984, the Competition In Contracting Act (CICA) aims to foster competition in government contracts. The primary objective is to enhance savings for the government by promoting competitive pricing. CICA's application extends to all bid solicitations issued after April 1, 1985.
CICA ensures full and open competition in awarding government contracts through sealed bidding and competitive proposals. For contracts exceeding $25,000, it mandates advertising at least 15 days before bid solicitation. This advertising strategy aims to attract a larger pool of bidders, fostering full and open competition. Departures from CICA's provisions are subject to strict guidelines and necessitate documentation and approval by the relevant government official.
Competition in Government Procurements: The Impact of CICA
The General Services Administration, a key agency overseeing U.S. government procurement, highlights the underlying premise of the Competition in Contracting Act: fostering increased competition to reduce costs and facilitate more opportunities for small businesses to secure federal contracts. CICA mandates that all procurements be open for the entire match, enabling qualified companies to submit their offers.
To ensure adherence to the spirit of competition, CICA requires every agency and procuring activity to designate a "competition advocate" responsible for reviewing and challenging any procurement practices that might limit competition. At the Congressional level, a dedicated Senate subcommittee has been established to oversee CICA's implementation and promote a competitive environment for government contracts.
Additionally, CICA introduced a mechanism to address contract protests before awarding, enabling parties to seek resolution through the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO's involvement suspends the award until a ruling is reached, with a 90-working-day deadline or 45-calendar-day express option.
Nevertheless, the provision allowing protests has sparked debate. A research paper in the Journal of Contract Management points out that while legitimate protests check the award process's integrity, frivolous objections exploit the mechanism, obstructing competition and causing disruptions in the Government-contractor relationship. Former Office of Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Steven Kelman expressed concerns over protests' time-consuming and costly nature, rendering agencies overly risk-averse and straining goodwill and partnership.
The Competition In Contracting Act fosters government contract competition, aiming to maximize savings through competitive pricing. It requires full and open competition, with advertising before bid solicitation for contracts above $25,000. CICA appoints a "competition advocate" to review and challenge practices limiting competition and involves a Senate subcommittee for oversight. The Act allows protests before awarding, but misuse has sparked debate. Overall, CICA promotes a transparent and competitive procurement landscape for government contracts.