Not all contractor Clauses are Mandatory FAR Flowdown Clauses to subcontractors. Prime contractors that are bidding on government contracts often provide subcontracting opportunities to other businesses. However, there is some confusion whether a specific FAR contract flow down clause appliesFlow Down Clauses in Federal Government Contracts understand your rights and liabilities to subcontractors. The reality is that different types of awarded contracts would have varying prime flow down clauses.

Problem: 43% of prime contractors are not clear as to which FAR clauses must apply to subcontractors and those that are discretionary. 68% percent of subcontractors simply sign their subcontracts without a basic understanding of what mandatory flow down clauses actually means.

Solution: Understand what the government’s risks could be when dealing with subcontractors and any violations of federal law. They become a clear indicator of what is important. Subcontractors should know what they can negotiate with primes and which clauses are non-negotiable.

It is important to both prime contractors, and subcontractors, to understand what are flow down subcontracting clauses and the value of having them in subcontractor agreements.

Prime contractors performing federal government projects must ensure that they have the proper prime flowdown requirements. Failure to include the appropriate flowdown clauses can result in a termination for default to the government, without recourse to the subcontractor.

  • The prime contract is with the federal government. As the prime contractor, you want to make sure that some of your contractual obligations flow down to the subcontractor.
  • Federal Government Contracts are regulated by the Federal Acquisition Regulations, FAR, 48 C.F.R.)
  • State law governs the subcontract and not federal contract law – excluding mandatory flow-down clauses.

If you are a government contracting prime, and you do not have list of mandatory far flowdown clauses, then your subcontractor can make you default with your Government customer.

What are FAR Mandatory Flowdown Clauses Requirements?

Mandatory flow down clauses are taken from the prime contract with the federal government and included in the subcontract. This allows for consistency and liability for all parties performing on a federal project.

  • Government contract flow down clauses depend on the type of contract awarded.

FAR clauses state that government contracting agencies shall require the prime  “shall insert the substance of this clause in all subcontracts. Therefore, if you are the main contractor, you should not just put a clause in your subcontract that states “all clauses that are in the prime contract flow down to the subcontractor.

  • You must include each subcontract clause individually.
  • You should not be flowing down the exact words of the prime’s contract clauses.
  • For the prime flow down clauses to be enforceable, it needs to be modified to fit your specific subcontract.

As a general practice, there are “mandatory” flow down clauses and “discretionary” flowdown clauses.

Common Clauses

  • 52.244-6, “Subcontracts for Commercial Items” – for other than commercial items
  • 52.215-5, “Contract Terms and Conditions Required to Implement Statutes or Executive Orders—Commercial Items” –  For commercial items
  • 52.203-13, “Contractor Code of Business Ethics and Conduct”
  • 52.203-15, “Whistleblower Protections Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009”
  • 52.219-8, “Utilization of Small Business Concerns”
  • 52.222-26, “Equal Opportunity”
  • 52.222-35, “Equal Opportunity for Special Disabled Veterans, Veterans of the Vietnam Era, and Other Eligible Veterans”
  • 52.222-36, “Affirmative Action for Works with Disabilities”
  • 52.222-39, “Notification of Employee Rights Concerning Payment of Union Dues or Fees”
  • 52.222-50, “Combating Trafficking in Persons”
  • 52.247-64, “Preference for Privately Owned U.S.-Flag Commercial Vessels”

List of Useful Prime Flow Down Clauses to Subcontractors

  • The Default clause is a discretionary flow-down clause
  • Option to exercise clause. This is also discretionary
  • Rights in Technical Data Rights –discretionary
  • Limitation of Funds or/Limitation of Costs –discretionary
  • Service Contract Act Requirements. This contract flow down clause is mandatory
  • Davis-Bacon Act Requirements — This is a mandatory flow-down clause
  • Audit and Records Clause and Sealed Bidding and Negotiated Contracts — Mandatory
  • Cost and Pricing Data — Mandatory
  • Subcontracts for Commercial Items — This clause is Mandatory)

Tip for subcontractors: Many prime contractors, especially in construction contracts try to limit payment to their subcontractors by inserting a pay-when-paid clause in the subcontract. This is not a mandatory flow down clause and should be reviewed with caution.

Christian Doctrine Government Contracts

When companies attempt to claim that a required flow down clause is not in the subcontract, courts will use the Christian Doctrine to read it into the subcontract regardless of the written language in the subcontract.

Many subcontractors find themselves at a great disadvantage when they complete work pursuant to the subcontract, and at the direction of the prime, only to find out that the government has a problem. When these situations arise, the issue becomes whether the subcontractor performed the work in accordance with the subcontract. The prime will attempt to withhold payment because the government has an issue with the work performed. 

Subcontractors should develop documentation in their files to narrow any disputes. One way of doing this is to confirm specific directions from the prime and make sure that the prime’s directions are clearly followed. Simply because the prime got it wrong with the government doesn’t mean that the subcontractor should have to forego payment. Remember that there is no privity of contract between the subcontractor and the government. Therefore, the onus is on the subcontractor to valid the prime’s directions.

To Avoid Costly Mistakes, Get a Free Government Claims Checklist

For help with FAR compliance and list of mandatory FAR flowdown clauses to subcontractors and understanding government procurement law, call our government contract compliance lawyers at 1-866-601-5518. FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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