FAR 1.602-1 (a); 1.602-2; and 2.101 defines what a COR & KO can do regarding a contract effort. However; we are unable to locate any verbiage within FAR that provides guidance relating to what a "customer" is allowed to do regarding contact w/a vendor. Example: if there is a clause within the contract that stipulates "specific delivery instructions" for a sensitive item & the vendor does not comply w/those instructions & time is of essence, can the customer reach out to the vendor & explain that the shipments must be in adherence to the contract? Orders arrived & no one knew they were coming, causing great angst amongst receiving personnel & when we attempted to contact our contracting folks no one would respond. Any advice into this matter would be greatly appreciated... No commitments, changes that would affect price, quantity, etc. had occurred, just trying to coordinate what should have been done in the first place...
As you know, contact between the vendor and the customer can result in a variety of misunderstandings; from unauthorized commitments to inadvertent orders, or unintentional changes. To ensure this does not occur, you should utilize a COR to communicate with the vendor as a single point of contact. After award, based on the contracting officer’s discretion, a post-award conference is sometimes held to ensure the customer and the vendor know the lines of communication. In this particular situation, a delivery was made without the customer’s knowledge. Was this delivery scheduled in the contract? Was it a late delivery? Was it an early delivery, or made out of sequence as agreed to in the contract? These are questions that a COR can ask and ensure contractual agreements are being maintained. Despite no one from the contracting office being available at the time, unless it is an extremely critical requirement, the KO must be notified first of any deviation in contract performance.
Customers mean well, and may only want to contact the vendor just to clear up an issue. But history and human nature has shown that if a future discrepancy arises, a customer will seek to solve the problem themselves, and usually without “bothering” the KO. A dialog begins, and sometimes ends with “minor” changes being made to performance.
So, in closing, customer-vendor contact should be minimal to none; a COR should be used if necessary or required; identify a contract specialist or a backup that can speak to the vendor on behalf of the customer, and if there is a delivery schedule, ensure all principals are aware of the dates and details concerning delivery, inspection, and acceptance.