Contractor Options for Challenging CPARS Ratings
by Shelley Hall
FAR 42.1503(d), Contractor Performance Information Procedures, provides that contractors “shall be afforded up to 14 calendar days from the date of notification of availability of the past performance evaluation to submit comments, rebutting statements, or additional information.”
However, you also need to be aware of the CPARS Guidance, which states that the contractor has a total of 60 days following the evaluation signature date to send comments. If the comments are sent within the first 14 days, and the evaluation is closed, the evaluation becomes available in the Past Performance Information Retrieval System Report Card (PPIRS-RC) within 1 day. On day 15 following the evaluation date, it will become available in (PPIRS-RC) with or without contractor comments and whether or not it has been closed. If the contractor sends comments at any time prior to 61 days following the signature date, those comments will be reflected in PPIRS-RC within 1 day. On day 61 following the evaluation signature date, the contractor will be “locked out” of the evaluation and may no longer send comments.
Once the rating is posted in PPIRS-RC, the world can see it, so it’s definitely in your best interest to provide comments within the first 14 days. Once comments are received, someone a level above the Assessing Official gets involved and agreement has to be reached on the rating before it is finalized.
If you disagree with anything in a CPARS, you need to respond so your comments will be retained as part of the CPARS. You might also send the contracting officer (CO) a letter countering all negative points in the CPARS and include documented evidence of your good performance.
You can also schedule a meeting with the CO to review the CPARS. While this might not get the rating changed, you can at least hear from the client what you need to do to improve your performance for next time. Use this opportunity to discuss performance issues and any role the government had to play in your low rating. It’s important for the CO to see the entire picture since there could be circumstances he is unaware of regarding government involvement that contributed to your performance issues.
The rating is not the final word. The FAR requires agencies to “provide for review at a level above the contracting officer to consider disagreements between the parties regarding the evaluation.” If the CO is not receptive, request that the issues be elevated.
A performance evaluation dispute between a contractor and an agency may constitute a Contract Disputes Act (CDA) claim if contract terms are at issue. So your letter questioning the correctness of a CO’s actions based upon the terms of the contract will constitute a claim because it seeks interpretation of contract terms and relief.
If a CPARS is done on your contract, it requires evaluations to be accurate and based on objective facts. If you believe (and have evidence to show) your evaluation was inaccurate or lacks objectivity, you may assert that as a claim and request that the CO re-evaluate your performance in accordance with the contract terms and seek a final decision. Should the CO deny this claim, you can appeal it as you would any other CDA claim.
I’m sure you’ve heard people say “Your reputation precedes you”. This is never truer than when discussing performance ratings on CPARS. If you receive a CPARS rating that does not properly reflect the performance of your company, never let it go unchallenged.
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