Standards of conduct guided by integrity

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rochelle Smith
  • 56th Contracting Squadron
When it comes to conducting business with the federal government, there is an implicit amount of trust that contracting professionals must preserve. Transactions relating to the expenditure of public funds require the highest degree of public trust and an impeccable standard of conduct.

Contracting professionals are not the only ones who are involved in the acquisition process. Aside from government employees, members of the acquisition team include industry partners, suppliers and contractors. The federal government characteristically embodies the role of the customer, while the contracting professional represents the fiduciary agent who engages with the contractor to satisfy the customer's requirements.

Perception is often considered a reality. Misconduct or abuse of responsibilities in any capacity is detrimental to the integrity of the acquisition process and will ultimately distort the public's trust in the government.

There are extensive guidelines and rules of engagement that emphasize the integral role that ethics play in the relationship between the contractor and the contracting professional. Some underlying concepts to emphasize from this business arrangement are that while contractors are part of the team, they are not government employees, therefore, inherently governmental functions and information should not be shared with the contractor.

Other general rules that govern contractors and contracting professionals are to make sure that government and contractor personnel are not used interchangeably. Subsequently, since the government and contractor represent two separate entities, contracting professionals do not need to become involved in operations and policies of the contractor (i.e. retaining and firing of contractor personnel).

Extenuating circumstances may inhibit the contractor; therefore, it is important to not place the contractor in a position of liability. Government requirements and activities will often be sensitive in nature, so government employees need to take the appropriate measures to safeguard sensitive information.

It is imperative that advanced approval is received prior to releasing propriety information to a contractor. It is the contracting professional's duty to maintain a fair and competitive environment, and releasing the contractor's price and cost schedules to other contractors would violate contracting protocol.

Standards of conduct are clearly outlined and highlighted for contracting professionals within the Federal Acquisitions Regulation. The FAR mandates that "government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach." In order to accomplish this level of integrity, boundaries need to be established between contractors and government personnel. Contracting professionals are entrusted to make decisions first and foremost for the good of the country and to spend money efficiently and promote growth. Alternatively, contractors have different priorities for their businesses -- to generate a profit.