The Procurement Lawyer

Organizational Conflicts of Interest: A Call to Action

by Melissa Copeland

Melissa J. “Missy” Copeland is a partner with Schmidt & Copeland LLC in Columbia, South Carolina. She is active in the Section of Public Contract Law and is the editor of the Guide to State Procurement: a 50 State Primer on Purchasing Laws, Processes and Procedures (2011), and 2nd ed (2016) published by the American Bar Association.


 

Can one vendor under a contract with the government work on a solicitation and then bid on and receive an award on that same solicitation when it is issued?

In South Carolina and possibly many other states, the answer may be “yes.”

Is it fair for only one vendor to have what the agency refers to as the “backbone” of a government solicitation (request for proposal, or RFP) several months before any other vendor and sit in on discussions about the contents of the RFP with the state agency and then receive an award of that solicitation?

In South Carolina and possibly many other states, the answer may be “yes.”

Such anomalous and counterintuitive results appear to be due to the failure of state (and local) governments to adequately address organizational conflicts of interest (OCIs). The federal government has been dealing with the issue of OCIs for many years, but states have been slow to follow the federal government’s lead on this issue. It is past time for state procurement agencies to address this topic.

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