The Construction Industry Force Account Council (CIFAC) is a compliance organization that works to help private construction contractors get their legal, fair share of public work.
To do this, we investigate California public agencies (hundreds of them) and their projects (thousands of them) to ensure compliance with state bidding laws. In the 40-years of our efforts, there are some common assumptions (excuses) from agencies that we have come across that we would like to share.
- Force Account Labor is free: Agencies who use internal staff to perform construction work have reasoned that because they already have staff on their payroll, that the labor to do the work is at no cost.
- Splitting a project into multiple parts equals separate projects: A project may be competitively bid in multiple pieces, but it is the aggregate value that determines the type of bidding required. A project may not be split to avoid exceeding the bid threshold.
- Labor costs exclusively determine a project value: The total value of a project includes the cost of equipment, labor, and materials.
- Advertising is not required: It is rarely allowed to dispense with advertising and only under special conditions. Most agencies must advertise projects online, in newspapers, trade journals and by posting their bid notices in public places for at least two weeks before the bid due date.
- Using Change Orders for any contractual change: A change order may be issued for unforeseen conditions but may not be used for the addition of work that was not in the original project scope.
- A contract was not necessary; we’ve worked with this contractor before: Although a sign of trust and respect, handshake deals are not permissible! Public agencies must execute a written agreement to ensure protections for both parties.
- Soliciting bids without plans and specifications: This is allowed, but only under certain situations, such as a design-build project or for informally bid projects under the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act. Written plans and specifications ensure you get the project you bid.
- Failing to provide documents upon a Public Records Request: Government Code ensures agencies provide public records upon a request and provide a written response within a ten-day period upon receipt of that request.
- Awarding a contract without proper due diligence: There are many complexities to a bid that must be reviewed to ensure compliance with the project plans and specifications. You must ensure the contractor is properly licensed, bonded and experienced to perform the work.
- Allowing subcontractor substitutions without proper notification to the listed subcontractor in the bid package: Subcontractors listing in a bid happens for a reason; it is a contractual agreement to perform the work. There are allowances for substitutions, but you must follow the proper procedures first before approving any subcontractor changes.
These Top Ten force account violations aren’t the only things we work on, but they usually provide what we call “a good start,” when CIFAC begins investigating complaints.
Let us hear from you if you have any questions about projects in your area so that we can go to work for you.