The Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) is the federal government-wide tool used to collect contractor performance information. The system responds to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirement that contractor performance information be collected (FAR Part 42.15) and used in source selection evaluations (FAR Part 15). CPARS collects contractor performance information and passes it to the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) Report Card and the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), the government-wide performance information repository where it can be retrieved by federal agencies.
The compilation of contractor performance information is known as the contractor performance assessment report (CPAR). A CPAR is intended to be an objective report of the performance during a period against the contract/order requirements. An Assessing Official (AO), who usually is the Contracting Officer’s Representative, is responsible for completing the report. Each evaluation must include detailed and complete statements about the contractor’s performance and be based on objective data (or measurable, subjective data when objective data are not available) supported by program and contract/order management data. The AO submits ratings for a standard list of evaluation areas that usually consist of the following:
- Cost Control
- Small Business Subcontracting (not applicable to small business primes)
- Regulatory Compliance
Fair and timely CPARs are essential for source selection officials to make informed business decisions when awarding government contracts and orders. However, small businesses may encounter difficulty in receiving objective, punctual reports. The issue stems from a variety of factors, including, but not limited to:
- Delays on the part of federal agencies in preparing reports within the mandated timeline;
- Mostly conservative and low ratings for various evaluation areas despite very good performance by the small business prime contractor in a particular category; and,
- A tendency to focus on a single, often early, unfortunate event or incident instead of looking at the contractor’s performance as a whole at the end of the contract.
Ultimately, the lack of fair and timely CPARs that are available for small business prime contractors is hindering the ability of small businesses to score well in the Past Performance category/evaluation factor for procurements. This weakens the chances of small businesses to successfully compete for prime contracts, particularly with unrestricted procurements that involve large business offerors.
However, not all hope is lost. While federal agencies can work to improve their track record in completing fair CPARs on time, small businesses may also work collaboratively with clients to ensure CPARs are available in the system and accurately reflect their performance under contracts. Read on for concrete actions that small businesses can undertake to set themselves up for success.
Tips and Best Practices for Timely and Fair CPARs
- Strive for exceptional performance and client satisfaction in all that you do;
- Know and understand the CPARs ratings and their respective definitions, as well as the CPAR process, milestones, and associated timeline;
- Regularly document and share performance highlights, as well as issues and mitigation actions, with the anticipated AO in particular and the client more broadly;
- Consider preparing an end-of-year summary of achievements and successes that reminds the anticipated AO of your performance; and,
- Contribute to fostering a positive perception of SBs as competent federal contractors, highlighting success stories and positive partnerships with other SBs.