By Sheryl Harmening
This was the first year that federal contractors and subcontractors were required to use the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s Contractor Portal. The requirement to certify compliance with the laws and regulations overseen by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the Contractor Portal was the result of a Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report.
That report found 85% of organizations being evaluated by OFCCP did not submit their affirmative action plans (AAPs) within the 30 days required in the letter opening a compliance review. This suggested that federal contractors and subcontractors were not complying with the requirement to develop and maintain AAPs. In response to the GAO report, OFCCP launched the Contractor Portal. One key purpose of the Contractor Portal was to provide a mechanism for contractors and subcontractors to certify compliance with their contractual obligations to maintain an annual AAP.
The portal opened for registration on February 1st, 2022, and the certification period began on March 31, 2022. The last day to certify for current contractors was June 30th, 2022.
The initiative was a first-of-its-kind approach to increase accountability for the contractor community.
So, what did we learn from OFCCP’s new initiative?
- The initial registration wasn’t without hiccups. Early in the process, several organizations got “a record already exists with the EIN you have entered” error that required reaching out to OFCCP’s technical help desk to resolve the issue.
- Certain organizations came across names in the “users” section of the portal that were not tied to individuals in their company. These names would appear and disappear without warning.
- There were several instances of “page not found” and “access denied” issues that appeared and disappeared in the same session when contractors were logged in.
- Organizations were allowed to use information from their 2018 EEO-1 filings to pre-populate certain portions of the Contractor Portal. However, outdated information from these EEO-1 filings often required updates to be made to establishments to reflect an organization’s current structure.
- Universities had a challenging time registering in instances where they had more than one AAP per University. In one instance, we found the system would not allow a university to use the same IPEDs Unit Number for multiple AAPs even though Universities have only one IPEDs number. This again required reaching out to the technical help desk to resolve the issue.
- Over the course of the three months the contractor portal was open for certification, there were several changes made to the portal. The user guide was not updated to reflect these changes. The agency’s FAQs were updated periodically to reflect some but not all changes. This left contractors with various unanswered questions.
- The portal is still open for certification past the June 30th deadline. OFCCP had always intended to leave the portal open for new federal contractors and subcontractors to certify they’ve developed affirmative action plans within 120 days of their receiving their first contract. These organizations with new AAPs will be given 90 days to certify compliance.
OFCCP has indicated that existing contractors that did not certify or that certified past the June 30th deadline will be prioritized for audits. However, those contractors that were unable to certify but reached out to OFCCP for technical assistance before the deadline will not be considered late.
Overall, the contractor portal website was relatively easy to use even with the technical glitches. The certification process was relatively simple and reflected OFCCP’s interest in making the process relatively easy for the contractor community.
It will be interesting to see if in the coming years OFCCP makes additional updates to the Contractor Portal website based on feedback from the contractor community. It will also be interesting to see if OFCCP decides in future years to request additional information as part of the certification process. DCI will continue to provide updates as they occur.