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Government Contracts Definition
Federal, state, and local governmental entities are large consumers of goods and services provided by private companies and individuals. In fact, the U.S. Government is the largest consumer of products and services in the world. But state governments and even local governmental entities like cities, counties, school districts, law enforcement agencies, and others purchase from private contractors all types of goods from pencils to vehicles and services from information technology to janitorial. These goods and services are generally purchased under tightly regulated procurement and contracting procedures governed by complex statutes and regulations.
While basic principles of contract law generally apply, government contracts also raise issues and require adherence to procedures not found in private contracts. First, government contacts are heavily regulated to assure transparency, uniform policies and practices among agencies, and accountability for the contract award and performance. Second, the bid documents - such as invitations to bid and requests for proposals and the contract documents - are prepared by teams of government experts and often have been the subject of judicial review which has determined how they are to be interpreted. Third, contract specifications and conditions are often designed to advance policy objectives which are not directly related to the subject matter of the contract which may impose significant compliance responsibilities on the vendor. Finally, a vendor’s failure to comply with statutory and regulatory procedures governing the bidding process may disqualify that vendor from participation in that selection process to provide services, products and supplies to the governmental agency requesting those bids.
Attorneys assist individual and corporate clients to comply with the complex laws, rules, regulations, and procedures related to the bidding process, protests of contract awards, negotiating final terms of contracts, and resolving disputes over performance or compensation. While attorneys may have general experience with government contracts it is important that an attorney also have experience with the particular governmental authority involved and knowledge of bidding and contracting policies and procedures specific to that agency. Bidding and contracting with state and local governmental entities therefore typically involve local attorneys experienced in the applicable law and procedures and acquainted with the personnel of the contracting authority. Federal contract issues are often handled by attorneys specializing in the field and, perhaps, the particular laws and agency regulations involved, such as the Armed Services Procurement Act of 1947, which governs acquisition by the U.S. Defense Department of all property, construction, and services.
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