CMS-PEO Pricing Synopsis

Pricing Alert – The massive HHS/CMS PEO RFP is out!
Are you prepared to tackle the complex pricing requirements?  It might seem straight forward at first glance, but read our detailed Pricing Synopsis to look out for some challenges and pitfalls to avoid.

Abstract:  This 10 year $2B IDIQ contract has two task orders along with the IDIQ awards. However, bidders beware. Despite the use of fixed price task orders, there’s still a large amount of pricing detail and documentation required. Teams with large number of subcontractors will need dedicated management and support to ensure submission of accurate proposals.

Contract Overview

The Provider Enrollment and Oversight (PEO) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract will provide contractor support to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to detect, prevent, and proactively deter fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

CMS anticipates multiple awards with a combined ceiling of $2B over the life of the contract. The ceiling may be increased at the CMS’s discretion. A minimum of 4 awards will be reserved for small businesses (under NAICS code 541990 and a size standard of $15M). The RFP (75FCMC18R0014) is silent on the number of potential awards to other than small businesses. The maximum ordering period is five years plus (1) additional five-year option period for a total ordering period of ten years. Neither the RFP or the IDIQ Ordering Guide clarify whether the task order period of performance can extend beyond the IDIQ ordering periods.

In addition to the IDIQ contract awards, CMS will also award two Firm Fixed-Price Task Orders on an unrestricted (full and open) basis for Site Verification Services – Eastern Region and Western Region. The RFP notes that one Offeror cannot be awarded both Site Verification Services’ task orders.

IDIQ Pricing Requirements

The proposal is organized into six volumes. Volumes I through IV pertain to the IDIQ proposal. Volumes V and VI are reserved for offerors bidding on the two awardable task orders which we discuss separately. The IDIQ pricing information content is divided between Volume I – Contract Documentation and Volume III Business Proposal.

All offerors must submit basic pricing information which includes typical IDIQ level pricing requirements including accounting systems information, indirect rate information, and the submission of a sample task order pricing. The IDIQ award will be based on this information.

Adequate Accounting System

The RFP contemplates a predominant mixture of Cost Reimbursement (CR) and Firm-Fixed Price (FFP) form of task orders awarded. Offerors must have an accounting system that is deemed acceptable or adequate for determining costs Subcontractors who are anticipated to have CR contracting arrangements, including non-commercial Time and Materials type contracts, must also have an acceptable or adequate accounting system.

Rate Information

Offerors must submit indirect rate information in Volume I including both approved provisional indirect rates and any forward rate price agreements. Offerors that have no prior history of approved indirect rates must submit support documentation for the prior 3 years consisting of their current year operating budget and a forecast covering the anticipated period of performance and associated documentation on that supports the proposed rates. The RFP does not request offerors to propose any IDIQ ceiling rates for either direct labor, indirect or fixed fee rate. However, the RFP contains a clause which gives CMS the option to establish ceiling indirect rates. We think clause this has implications for pricing the sample task order discussed below.

Sample Task Order Pricing Requirements

The sample task order pricing is straightforward. Exhibit E.8 “QASP Sample Task Order Business Proposal Template” is to be priced for base and one option period. Labor is priced as fully burdened (inclusive of fee). The labor rates are then linked to a labor rate buildup backup detail for each task order period. Offerors must show the full detail of their proposed labor rate (including the erroneously termed ‘Fixed Fee’).

Curiously, the pricing template requests offerors to map proposed travel and ODCs by SOW section. However, similar mapping information for labor costs is not required. Travel cost detail must be provided for the Kick-off meeting. However, for remaining travel, CMS requests offerors to use a plug unit cost of $2,000 per trip per person. For indirect rates, the instructions specifically state to cross-reference Volume I for indirect rate basis information. Finally, a compensation plan must accompany the sample task order pricing. CMS provided a streamlined template in Exhibit E.8 reflecting the minimum information necessary to comply with FAR 52.222-46. We recommend offerors take the hint and provide just the bare minimums necessary for compliance and nothing more.

While the Exhibit E.8 is in itself not very complex, importantly, Offerors are required to provide additional, lower level, labor-hour detail under Technical Factor 3 – Key Personnel and Staffing Plan within the Technical Volume. The task order RFP requests full-time equivalent (FTE) and labor detail by CLIN, labor category, prime/subcontractor. The staffing summary must provide both full-time equivalents and labor hours. While the instructions do not request a lower level labor breakdown by individual subcontractor, subcontractors are required to provide this FTE and labor hour detail by CLIN (and 2nd tier subcontracts) in their Exhibit E.3 Subcontractor Proposal Information Checklist. Therefore, it will be important for primes to ensure their subcontractor labor data ties in three different proposal documents, Volume III Exhibit E.8 QASP Sample Task Order Business Proposal Template, Volume II – Technical Volume staffing summary, and Volume I – Exhibit E.3 Subcontractor Proposal Information Checklist. (Unfortunately, we revisit this theme of cross-volume data checking under the two larger (and real) task orders below.)

We’re not fans of RFPs that require pricing sample task orders that are not awarded. We believe they invite aggressive and potential unrealistic and irrational pricing. However, as mentioned above, there’s one RFP clause that could give bidders some pause from overly aggressive pricing of the sample task order, at least for indirect rates. Section E of Volume I instructions state, “In accordance with FAR 42.707, entitled ‘Cost Sharing Rates and Limitations on Indirect Cost Rates,’ CMS may establish indirect cost ceilings in the contract. If established, reimbursement will be limited to the negotiated indirect cost ceilings established in the contract…” We wonder what would happen if a bidder proposed aggressively low indirect rates for the sample task order (below their current approved provisional rates) and were awarded an IDIQ contract. Could CMS accept these low sample task order indirect rates and subsequently cap those rates for the life of the IDIQ? (Don’t say it can’t happen just because CMS did not make good on the threat on other contracts. I recall an Army recompete where, based on the prior contract, bidders priced the IDIQ using T&M rates with the understanding the Army would ultimately request task order pricing using those T&M rates, but issue task orders on a fixed price basis. Many bidders proposed low labor rates, assuming they could subsequently manage the labor hours on a fixed price task order to ensure adequate profit. The Army subsequently issued T&M type task orders, not fixed price, and the contract holders were stuck pricing and executing their task orders using the artificially low IDIQ T&M rates. The moral of the story: Anything is possible. Don’t assume past agency behavior is an assured prediction of future behavior).

Task Orders 1 and 2 Pricing Requirements

The IDIQ award will be based on the sample task order. CMS included two additional Firm Fixed Price (FFP) Task Order RFPs that will be awarded:  Eastern Region Site Verification Services and Western Region Site Verification services. Both are full and open competitions. Offerors are permitted to bid on either one or both. However, CMS will not award both task orders to the same offeror. The cost proposals are contained within Volume VI (VI-A Eastern region, VI-B Western Region).

Pricing for both task orders are organized similarly in Attachment J.5.C (Eastern Region) and Attachment J.6.C (Western Region). Each pricing template contains five CLINs representing separate 12-month periods of performance. Each CLIN contains an “AA” sub-CLIN for ‘Site Visits’ (sites not associated with an Independent Diagnostic Test Facility (IDTF)) and sub-CLIN“AB” for IDTF Site Visits. Each subCLIN is further divided into 4 visit types (48 hrs., 7 days, 15 days, or 30 days). While the pricing attachments appear to denote these site visits in terms of visit length, we note that each SOW denotes the 4 visit types in terms of response time. So, a “30-day site visit” as labeled in the pricing attachment appears to really mean perform the site visit within 30 days’ notice according the SOW. A 48-hour site visit would mean perform the visit within 48-hour notice. This is an important distinction and we recommend offerors confirm that the SOW’s definition of site visits types is the correct definition.

Unit Pricing Requirements

Offerors must propose unit prices per visit type with associated breakdowns of fully burdened labor, travel. ODCs, and subcontract costs. The pricing templates are designed to apply the same proposed CLIN/Site-visit type unit price to both the minimum order guarantee quantities and to the (larger) estimated quantities. Therefore, the template produces two total prices:  A ‘minimum quantity’ price and a total price based on ‘Estimated Quantity’.

Detailed Labor Tracking

As discussed under the sample task order, similar cross-volume labor detail is required for each of the awardable task orders. Similarly, it will be important for primes to ensure their subcontractor labor data ties in three different task order proposal documents, Attachment 5 (or 6) pricing template, Volume V – Technical Volume staffing summary, and Volume VI – Exhibit E.3 Subcontractor Proposal Information Checklist. Finally, we also note, the task order instructions are silent on whether the staffing summary must be built to the minimum order quantities, estimated quantities or both. CMS should clarify

Burdensome Basis of Estimates

In addition to providing the Excel pricing attachments, offerors must provide a Business Proposal Narrative. The narrative must include among other things, a Basis of Estimate. The BOEs must, “describe the BOE used to establish those estimates as fair and reasonable. This includes providing all assumptions used to establish proposed prices and any and all empirical data which can provide further support to the proposed prices as fair and reasonable. The Government needs to understand how you determined the prices per element and how that correlates with the technical approach”. We’re surprised this level of detailed documentation is needed given the work scope is somewhat standardized and offerors are proposing fixed prices. We wonder why CMS wouldn’t rely on direct comparison of offeror prices to establish price reasonableness. Regrettably, this represents a lost opportunity to streamline the time and effort required for both the bidders and for CMS.

The BOE instructions request further details for each cost element. Offerors must provide the labor category(s) that make up the “Labor” price per site visit and include information on proposed escalation of each price element as well as the level of ‘productive labor’ in 1 full time equivalent (FTE).

Similar types of information are requested to explain travel and ODC costs. For subcontractor costs, the RFP does not explicitly request similar pricing details as the prime, except it specifically states primes must include a subcontract “Certificate of Current Cost or Pricing Data; as appropriate”. Until the Contracting Officer determines adequate competition does not exist, we do not believe there’s any reason for subcontractors to submit certified cost and pricing data.

SOW Disconnect?

While each SOW (Eastern and Western) identifies the states and territories covered, each SOW also contains an extra provision to optionally expand the geographical scope of services required. SOW 3.3, paragraph 2 states, “The Contractor shall have the ability to conduct nationwide site verification services at locations in all 50 States and 6 Territories, if required by CMS and with a minimum 30-day notification. (emphasis added). We would think the ‘East Region’ contractor might object to CMS and giving ‘East Region’ work to their counterpart ‘West Region’ contractor and vice versa.

Other Pricing Quirks

SOW 3.5, paragraph 2 states, “If there are multiple providers at the same location, the Contractor shall provide one record for each provider with the appropriate provider ID and provider name attached to each record”. However, pricing is based on ‘site visits’ and appear to be location based. In this instance, multiple providers at one location appears to represent (1) site visit. We think offerors should seek clarification.

Conclusion

We’re surprised at the level of cost and pricing data and associated documentation requested for the first two task orders, even though there’s adequate price competition and fixed pricing for presumably standardized services. Bidders with a large team of subcontractors should carefully manage the proposal to ensure the labor data correctly ties out among multiple proposal documents. We also think offerors (especially small businesses) should exercise care when pricing the sample task order to ensure they don’t unintentionally sign up for low indirect rates that they may not be able to adequately accommodate during the IDIQ contract.

If you’re looking to BOOST your proposal give us a call or send us an email, [email protected] We’re able to provide pricing synopses on a variety of RFP opportunities to help you avoid pitfalls and tackle requirements the right way. 

Prepared by BOOST LLC/Michael Gallo

Opportunity identified by The Pulse of GovCon

Budget: Preparing for FY19

As GovCons grind through the rest of the year, it is hard to think about 2019.  We’re a little worn out from proposal season and if you are lucky, new contract awards.  We’ve been recruiting hard in a difficult market, transitioning from incumbents, and getting new starts off the ground.  Depending on which agency you work with, you’ve had an upswing in work or you’ve spent most of the year trying to help your clients scrape together budget and “do more with less.” (Is anyone else sick of hearing this?!)  Some may be putting the finishing touches on their OASIS bid or hunting a few of the large elephants out there (JEDI subs, CMS PEO, etc.). Not sure about you, but we’re ready to start the holiday party networking scene and drink and eat away our cares.

While that may be tempting, now is the time to plan for FY19.  Corporate budgeting season should be well underway.  What are your goals for next year and what are your priorities?  What can you divert investment to and what do you hold off on?  We all have our wish lists of things we’d spend money on, but what has the best ROI for your company?  In our capitalist hearts, money drives all things…which is why the budget is so important.

If you have the attitude that the budget is just an exercise for accounting folks or it is just a spreadsheet drill, you are missing the point and the opportunity to align your company under a set of consistent goals.

Best practice has budgeting from both top-down and bottom-up approaches.  CEOs – what are your goals for next year?  Some folks think too small, while others pull a random number out of their ass and demand that BD/Capture/Ops get them there.  Some take a % increase off of the current year.  There is nothing worse than sitting in budget meeting after budget meeting listening to what the “stretch” goals should be.  Unrealistic and completely unattainable goals will demotivate a sales team faster than anything.  That being said, a goal shouldn’t be easy street either.  Take a cold hard look at your pipeline report.  Look at your customer’s budget. Do the environmental scan.  Don’t make up a number in a bubble.

From a bottom-up approach, take a good look at actual run rates, utilizations, and project budgets.  Review indirect costs for efficiencies.  What did you waste money on this year?  What led to no ROI?  Now’s the time to cut it or reevaluate for next year.  Ripe off the Band-Aid and make tough decisions.

Finally, tie the budget directly to your corporate goals.  Tie performance evaluations to goals and budget.  Then effectively communicate the goals and any changes to everyone so there is an understanding of where the company is going, company priorities and how each individual can contribute to those goals.

Or, if you would rather stick your head in the sand, a la the ostrich, there are always holiday parties to attend. Let us know how that works out.

 

BOOST can show you how to go back to the basics – pay your people and get paid. From there we can set up a monthly financial review meeting to analyze all financial aspects of your business. BOOST reviews your system with stakeholders and documents operational procedures. We help provide a structure and organize effective accounting systems that scale with your growing business. Let’s get you on the right path for FY19, today! [email protected]

Meet Avantika!

BOOST LLC is thrilled to announce that the team is growing.
Please give a warm welcome to Avantika Singh!
She will be supporting BOOST’s clients with her specialties in government cost/price volume expertise, strategic pricing expertise, price to win,  financial model development, financial analysis, federal contracting, metrics/measurement reviews, forecasting and more.

We took some time to get Avantika’s thoughts on the following:

Three pieces of advice for growing govcons: 

  • Always be ambitious
  • Business is meant to be grown
  • Don’t get comfortable in your own zone

What/Where is the best resource for growing your network? 

The best resource for growing the network for me has been word of mouth referrals as a consultant.  When you do good work, people trust you and recommend you, so person to person or business to business referrals have been my biggest resource.

What is your “hot take” for finding success in your industry? 

It is important to make mistakes. You don’t learn if you keep winning. Yes, it’s obviously great to win, but making mistakes and losing on a few bids gives you the best experience for long-term success.

What is the most surprising experience you’ve had working in the govcon community? 

What surprised me in this industry when I first started was how close-knit and small it really is, despite having large behemoth companies and small mom and pop shops. It seems like the same usual suspects intersect at various points, and it’s a very good community overall.  Reputation actually matters, don’t burn bridges, and collaboration is the way to go…even with competitors.

BOOST Featured Guest | SC&H Group

At BOOST LLC we are lucky to rub elbows with some pretty smart people and businesses. So much so, that we’re going to share them with you! Periodically we’ll feature a govcon guest/business alongside their thoughts and hot-takes relevant to their industry.

FEATURED GUEST:  Pete Ragone, SC&H Group

What is your best advice to solve the biggest problem in your industry?

Businesses aren’t just looking for a “one trick,” partner anymore. They are looking for a firm with dynamic capabilities that can evolve and serve them as their needs change. Additionally, technology continues to break down walls within organizations therefore the scope of where our expertise is needed has changed. As a result, we continue to develop offerings that address the most pressing needs of our clients. This evolution solidifies the need to hire, train and retain employees with diverse backgrounds and expertise to be able to provide our clients with the expert advice they require to succeed.

What has been the weirdest experience you’ve had working within the government contracting community?

The weirdest experience I had relates to an M&A deal I was brought in to potentially perform due diligence on behalf of the buyer. I was contacted by the buyer that they were trying to close on the deal within five days. I let the buyer know that typical due diligence requires at least 30-60 days of lead time depending on the size and scope of the seller’s business, however, I did agree to at least look at whatever internal documents were available from the seller in the data room. After reviewing the limited number of documents provided in the data room, I recommended that the buyer delay closing on the deal at least another 30 days to allow our firm to perform adequate due diligence services as there were some very large red flags that gave me great concern. Sadly, the buyer ignored my advice and closed on the deal within the five-day period. That buyer is now in the process of determining whether to declare bankruptcy less than a year after making the acquisition. In this extremely active M&A market for the government contracting industry,  I cannot stress enough to companies that are looking to acquire or sell a business to please do adequate due diligence to mitigate risk and avoid similar outcomes.

What is your “hot take” on a current industry’s trending topic?

One current industry trending topic in the government contracting industry is the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA’s or OT arrangements) as a mechanism for the federal government to bypass typical onerous procurement rules. OT arrangements are legally binding instruments typically used to engage companies, as well as academia, for a broad range of research, development, and prototyping activities. These OT arrangements are not bound by the normal federal laws and regulations that apply to government procurement contracts (e.g. FAR/DFARS). Recently I have attended many government contracting industry conferences and seminars espousing the benefits of OT arrangements to help government contractors grow their business. However, recently the GAO has begun to investigate the use of OT arrangements for production type contracts, which is not the original intent of the legislation. Accordingly, I recommend business owners seeking to win new business via OT arrangements ensure they seek expert advice from a government contracting attorney with experience and expertise in OTs.

Where do you see yourself/your company in 5 years?

SC&H Group will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of businesses all the while keeping a pulse on the best strategies to deploy for our clients across industries. Our growth will run parallel to ensuring our employees continue to have educational development opportunities, including insights into how innovation will play a significant role in shaping our services and our clients’ strategic plans. Additionally we will continue to be a thought leader and valued resource to business owners and executives in the government contracting industry to help them succeed in their goals to grow a profitable business, organically and/or through acquisitions, through sound business and tax advice as well as provide expert advice to owners looking for potential exit strategies (e.g. sell to PE/strategic buyer, ESOP transaction, or management-buyout).

Lowering Your Wrap Rate

Did you make it into your desired beach bod state this summer?  Or was time for the gym illusive?  Did you cut back on the dessert or did you enjoy a ton of gelato?

Much like dieting and maintaining good health, government contractors must maintain a “sexy” multiplier/wrap rate.  Even if you are in a less competitive field or have a unique offering for a customer with a ton of funding (if you are, good on you), you must still monitor and maintain your wrap rate.

Companies can sometimes view this exercise as an annual corporate budget, where you occasionally look at how you are doing and often look back and ponder “what were we thinking?”  This is not enough by a long shot.  Best practice is to review your financials each month and include analysis on how you are performing on your wrap rate.  Review monthly, adjust quarterly, consider a complete overhaul semi-annually.

Most companies find that they need to tighten the belt a smidge, especially as we push into the fourth quarter.  For some, it may be too late to rein it in this year, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start pushing for the 2019 indirect diet.  For others, it may be a great time to lose a few pounds before the year-end festivities.  Here are some suggestions for both year-end and next year:

  • Space – do you really use it; do you need it and what is your company culture? Larger System Integrators are shedding their bloated infrastructure.  Don’t build one unless you’ve got 5-year POP’s with all contractor site rates.  And even then, keep it lean.
  • Wellness – When was the last time you competitively shopped your benefits? Or even your broker?  Don’t get tied up in the same old “we only have a 2-5% increase, so that’s great” mentality.  Depending upon your size, self-funding in some capacity may be of interest.  Does anyone actually use the vision policy?  What about dental?  Have you considered reducing your contribution?  Not always popular but it may lead to new work.
  • Training – with all of the online options these days, does your team really need individualized training or would an online package work? You could offer this benefit to more employees at a lower overall cost.
  • Education – consider reducing the tuition reimbursement if very few people are using it. It’s nice to tout to potential new hires, but in reality, it’s not a deal-breaker.  If it is, bonus the employee out to cover the costs.
  • Business Development – is the team on track to meet their goals this year or has performance been underwhelming? It is time to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t and shed a quarter’s worth of labor costs for non-performers.  Let them go now while the job market is still firing up.  Layoffs or terminations after Veterans Day essentially mean no job until after New Year’s.  Make the hard call now.

Keep working at the wrap rate and make sure it’s as lean as you can survive on.  Not bloated, but not extra thin either – you need a little wiggle room to ensure a healthy company.