Conflicts of Interest & Coffee Jar

Question

Are there any dollar thresholds for conflicts of interest? Why do government contractors have coffee and donut jars?

Answer

FAR 9.5 “Organizational and Consultant Conflicts of Interest” seems most appropriate for your question. In my review of this section, I see no dollar thresholds. However, it does state inĀ 9.505: “Each individual contracting situation should be examined on the basis of its particular facts and the nature of the proposed contract. The exercise of common sense, good judgment, and sound discretion is required in both the decision on whether a significant potential conflict exists and, if it does, the development of an appropriate means for resolving it.”

As for the coffee and donut jar, I know that some companies still have these in their break rooms or conference rooms. However, my opinion is that coffee and donuts are de minimis items that do no represent a conflict of interest. We have a prime contractor quality inspector who always brings his own box of donuts to share in exchange for drinking our coffee – I guess that keeps his conscience clean.

For me, coffee and donuts served during a business meeting are not significant enough to influence a decision. Box seats to the upcoming Super Bowl…

FAR 3 “Improper Business Practices and Personal Conflicts of Interest” deals with knowledge of the acquisition, sharing information with other bidders, improper relationships, kickbacks, and the contractor code of business ethics and conduct.

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