Business and labor battle over contractor ethics rule

Labor groups and business associations resumed a battle over a rule that sets ethics standards for government contractors Monday at a public meeting held by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council. Twenty-one groups appeared before the Council to share their thoughts on a possible reversal of the controversial ethics regulation, which went into effect one day before President Clinton left office. On April 3, the Bush administration imposed a 270-day stay on the ethics regulation and published a rule in the Federal Register seeking comment on whether the regulation should be revoked. Representatives from business and labor groups presented starkly different views on the need for the ethics rule and the ability of government contracting officers to enforce it in a fair way. Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Aerospace Industry Association of America and the Contract Services Association said the rule duplicates existing regulations and requires contracting officers to make broad judgments about a contractor's record on labor and environmental issues. "Government agents could wield virtually unlimited power if this rule stands," said Randel Johnson, vice president for labor and employee benefits with the Chamber of Commerce. "Mere allegations of wrongdoing could prevent a business from winning a federal contract." Mark Wagner, manager of government affairs with the Florida-based aerospace contractor Johnson Controls, said the rule amounts to "double jeopardy" for contractors who have long-since resolved labor and environmental concerns. "It could hurt companies that have owned up to errors and paid relative fines and penalties," he said. Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, said the rule was merely an attempt to keep the U.S. from subsidizing chronic lawbreakers. "If a company can't play by the rules that Congress set for the country, why should it receive a government contract?" she asked. Chavez-Thompson also blasted the Bush administration for working "quickly and quietly" to overturn the rule with a minimum of public comment. Vice President Al Gore launched the Clinton administration's push for the contractor ethics rule in a 1997 address to the AFL-CIO. Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, challenged the notion that contracting officers are unable to evaluate a contractor's ethical behavior. "We trust contracting officers to make multimillion dollar awards, but don't think they are capable of finding out if companies are repeated violators of basic laws," he said. The ethics rule was supported at the FAR Council meeting by one member of industry, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, which represents 2,000 construction contractors. Like the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act and other recent procurement reforms, the rule helps the government become a better customer, said Lonnie Coleman, president of Cleveland-based Coleman Construction. The deadline for comments on the proposed revocation of the rule is July 6. Written comments should be sent to: General Services Administration,
FAR Secretariat (MVP), 1800 F Street, N.W., Room 4035,
ATTN: Laurie Duarte, Washington, D.C. 20405
Parties may also email comments to: farcase.2001-014@gsa.gov
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.