What is OCI?
Organizational Conflict of Interest means that due to other activities or relationships with other entities, an institution is unable to render impartial assistance or advice to the Government, cannot perform the federal contract work in an objective way, or has an unfair competitive advantage as compared to other entities.
It differs from personal conflict of interest , in that it is not based on or limited to a faculty member’s efforts or relationships, but rather it is a result of the institute’s work and interactions.
The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Subpart 9.5 details three basic categories of OCI:
- Biased ground rules (FAR 9.505-2): Example – preparing/writing specifications or work statements that are used in a funding opportunity;
- Impaired objectivity (FAR 9.505-3): Example – evaluating or assessing performance of products/services of others within same organization; and
- Unequal access to information (FAR 9.505-4): Example – gaining access to non-public information through performance of a federal contract.
One faculty member’s involvement in any one of these activities may preclude later awards to the institution, regardless of the engaged faculty member, based on the perception of potential or actual OCI.
FAR Subpart 9.5 - general rules, responsibilities, and procedures regarding OCI
How do I know if I need to have my proposal reviewed for OCI?
Whereas all institute activities should be considered when making a determination regarding actual or potential OCI, federal contracts that fall under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) often have a specific requirement that a contracting officer must make an OCI certification or representation.
To determine if your proposal or contract requires an OCI representation, and therefore requires a formal OCI review, search the solicitation and broad agency program guidance. Generally, a search on the word “conflict” will reveal any specific requirements.
Although OCI representations may be required by any federal agency under the FAR, these requirements are most commonly associated with DoD or NASA contracts or subcontracts.
If you determine that your proposal or contract has an OCI representation requirement or you are not sure, note this in the eRouting system, by checking the appropriate radial dial, under the OCI tab. This will trigger further OCI review of your proposal or contract. Don’t forget to attach or link to the RFP in the eRouting entry, as the OCI committee will need this information to expedite next steps.
NOTE: Due to the large number of DoD contracts in GTRI, all GTRI proposals entered into the eRouting system are routed for review for actual or the potential appearance of OCI.
What should I expect in an OCI Review?
If a formal review is triggered, your proposal will be routed to a member of the GT OCI committee. The committee will review the solicitation, scope of work, and GT contracting database to determine if there are OCI concerns. If there is not a representation requirement and the committee does not identify any concerns, the OCI committee member will update the routing sheet to reflect his determination and the proposal/contract routing flow will continue. If the committee determines that there is an OCI representation requirement and/or there are additional questions, the committee member will frequently interview the submitting PI before making a final determination.
Once the committee makes a determination and addresses all associated OCI documentation, the eRouting request will be updated to reflect this action and the proposal or contract will be forwarded to the next step in the workflow.
How long does an OCI review take?
The timeline of an OCI review very much depends on its complexity. All reviews are initiated within five business days of the committee’s receipt of the request, though usually sooner. If the initial evaluation reveals that there are not any OCI certification requirements or concerns, the review may be completed in a few minutes. If, however, the potential for conflict is extremely complex, creating mitigation plans or other documents in partnership with the PI may take weeks or longer. Simple OCI reviews typically conclude within one to two business days.
Who serves on the OCI Review Committee?
The Executive Vice President for Research directly appoints one to three members of the committee and delegates appointment of GTRI representatives to the director of GTRI. Currently serving at the behest of the EVPR are Linda Mazzeo, Susan Roche, and Gail Spatt. If you have questions regarding OCI, please contact a committee member or direct general questions to email@example.com.