DUNS’ Days May Be Numbered
November 23, 2015
By: Eric Whytsell
On November 18, 2015, the Federal Regulations Council proposes to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to change the terminology for unique identification of entities receiving Federal awards by removing the current references to the proprietary DUNS number standard.
Maintaining a unique identification system for entities receiving Federal dollars is critical to ensuring the Government does business with responsible parties, awardees are paid in a timely manner, and awards are appropriately recorded and reported. The FAR currently relies on the proprietary Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS®) number from Dun and Bradstreet. The proposed rule seeks to eliminate references to the proprietary DUNS standard and to provide appropriate references to a new Web site where information on the unique entity identifier used for Federal contractors will be located. In addition, it defines the terms, ‘‘unique entity identifier’’, and ‘‘electronic funds transfer (EFT) indicator’’.
While the Government will need to continue to rely on the DUNS number system in the short term, this proposed rule is intended to position the Government to move away from DUNS by eliminating regulatory references to it, which should “provide opportunities for future competition that can reduce costs to taxpayers.” The Government currently pays Dun & Bradstreet almost $20 million per year to provide unique identifying numbers for businesses. However, the Government’s ability to negotiate the best deal -- or to take advantage of other, potentially better, solutions -- is constrained by its currently mandated use of a proprietary number and organization to meet the identification need as well as the need for other business information associated with that number.
The move to prepare for change reflects other ongoing developments. For example, recent legislation such as the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) and the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) requires expanded identification of entities working with the Government and the development of standards, processes, and policies to better trace Federal dollars from appropriation to final outcomes or results. Creation and maintenance of data standards will facilitate collection and display of essential information. In addition, a new data standard for identification of entities receiving Federal awards has been developed as part of the implementation of DATA and is available at http://fedspendingtransparency.github.io/whitepapers/unique-idbusiness-name/.
Additional changes are on the horizon as well. The Federal Government plans to establish a transparent process for exploring potential alternatives to existing entity identifiers. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Treasury, in collaboration with the General Services Administration and the Award Committee for E-Government will establish a process for considering options, including soliciting information about viable alternatives from and reaching out about nonproprietary alternatives to all sectors, including private companies, nonprofits, and Federal government providers. This process will result in an analysis of alternatives for the unique identification of entities working with the Federal government while maintaining the statutory and regulatory integrity protections for the needs of the various awarding communities (loans, financial assistance, procurement, etc.) as well as transparency communities. The analysis of alternatives will include consideration of costs, implementation considerations, and protections for Federal taxpayers. The analysis of alternatives is anticipated to be completed in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. In the meantime, interested parties are encouraged to submit written comments – in response to FAR Case 2015–022 to the Regulatory Secretariat on or before January 19, 2016 for consideration in the formulation of a final rule.
Eric Whytsell is responsible for the contents of this Article.
© Jackson Kelly PLLC 2015