FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky (Oct. 16, 2014) -- A rise in Army personnel entering into agreements on behalf of the government without the authority to do so is causing significant administrative burdens and costs to the service, according to Fort Campbell contracting officials.Soldiers and civilians from the 922nd Contingency Contracting Battalion are ratifying eight unauthorized commitments valued at more than $123,000. Officials said the amount of hours worked and delayed payments to contractors on each unauthorized commitment are significant.The Federal Acquisition Regulation defines an unauthorized commitment as "an agreement that is not binding solely because the government representative who made it lacked the authority to enter into that agreement on behalf of the government."Only Government Purchase Card holders and contracting officers have the authority to make purchases or award contracts for the Army."If you are not one of them, then you don't have the authority to bind the government to a contract," said Noryem Maldonado, a contracting officer with the 922nd CCBn. "Keep in mind that government employees who make unauthorized commitments may face personal financial liability from the vendor if the government is unable to ratify the unauthorized commitment."Unauthorized commitments can also lead to wage garnishment and is a violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is failure to obey order or regulation.Maldonado explained there are three circumstances that lead to an unauthorized commitment.The first is when a unit's leadership or delegated representative enters into a contract with a vendor for supplies or services on behalf of the unit without utilizing the proper channels. The proper channels to acquire supplies or services are through the unit's Government Purchase Card Program or by submitting a purchase request through the installation contracting office.Maldonado said the second situation may involve a unit representative asking for changes in quantity or specifications or extending the period of performance for an existing government contract without approval of a contracting officer. This might include asking a contractor to provide services on a weekend when the contract period extends to week days only.Another scenario is when a unit representative calls a vendor to obtain product information or pricing but inadvertently leads the vendor to believe that an order is being placed."If you are not authorized to enter into a contract on behalf of the government, then don't," Maldonado said. "If you have any questions about the contract associated with your requirement, then you should contact your contracting officer immediately."If an unauthorized commitment occurs, Maldonado said your chain of command needs to contact the installation contracting office immediately to begin the process of rectifying the situation.
To rectify the situation, unauthorized commitments require ratification by a contracting officer so that the vendor or service provider can be paid for the goods or services they have provided.
"This is a lengthy and painful process," Maldonado said. "The ratification approval authority depends on the dollar amount of the unauthorized commitment. The approval authority of ratifications below $10,000 is the director of the Fort Campbell contracting office. Any unauthorized commitment more than $10,000 will require review and approval outside of Fort Campbell."
According to officials at the 922nd CCBn, there are four basic steps for ratification. First, the contracting office conducts an investigation that collects statements and summarizes the facts surrounding the unauthorized commitment. Second, the contracting officer assigned to ratify the unauthorized commitment reviews the Federal Acquisition Regulation to determine if ratification is possible. Next, a legal review is performed for the ratification to determine legal sufficiency. Finally, the first colonel in the chain of command is required to sign and submit a memorandum requesting ratification that provides an explanation of events and corrective measures taken. Ratification actions more than $10,000 require the document to be signed by the installation or division commander.Once the unauthorized commitment is ratified, it can be paid."Every effort shall be made to finalize the ratification process within 45 days of receipt of the unauthorized commitment package, but remember that not all unauthorized commitments can be ratified," Maldonado said. "If funds were not available or the purchase would not have been authorized when attempted through the proper channels, then the individual may become personally liable to the vendor, and the unauthorized commitment will not be ratified."Additionally, Maldonado said an unauthorized commitment may lead to a statutory funding violation with criminal, civil and administrative consequences.The 922nd CCBn conducts installation contracting and, when ordered, supports contingency, humanitarian and disaster relief contracting operations. In fiscal 2014, the unit obligated more than $93 million in contracts to support the Fort Campbell mission.