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Contract Files

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What should the contract file contain and why? What are the primary contract planning inputs and why?

A. The Common Grant Rules require a recipient to prepare and maintain adequate and readily accessible project performance and financial records, covering procurement transactions as well as other aspects of project implementation. The Common Grant Rules require a recipient to maintain these records for three years after the recipient and subrecipients, if any, have made final payment and all other pending matters are closed.

At a minimum, these records must include: the rationale for the method of procurement; selection of contract type; reasons for contractor selection or rejection; and the basis for the contract price. The contract file documentation should represent the history of the procurement, including the basis for important decisions that were made (e.g., how the contractor was selected, the basis for the price, etc.). The documentation is important for those who must review the action later, and a review of contracts that spend public funds is required by those agencies supplying the funds to ensure that regulations are followed and good business decisions are being made.

The extent of documentation should be reasonable. Documents included in a procurement history should be commensurate with the size and complexity of the procurement itself. FTA recognizes that these written records will vary greatly for different procurements. For example, a receipt or bill accompanying a $100 credit card purchase might contain all of the required information to support that procurement. Procurements that are more substantial may require extensive documentation. (Revised: September 2010)

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Q. How do you set up a contract file? What should the file contain?

A. An organizational entity such as the procurement office should be assigned responsibility to maintain the official contract file. There should be a uniform numbering system for all contract files. The number may be the solicitation number, contract number, funding identification or some other construction as long as it is uniform and facilitates reliable file retrieval. If the official contract file is divided into two parts (contract placement and contract administration), the contract administration file may be assigned to the program office for maintenance. The two parts would ideally be merged after or during contract closeout.

The official contract file should contain the following:

  1. A signed copy of the complete contract
  2. All signed amendments including rationale for the contract change and justification for the resulting cost/price or delivery date change
  3. All correspondence with the contractor
  4. Approvals or disapprovals of contract deliveries
  5. Requests for waivers or deviations and the associated responses
  6. Documentation regarding settlement of claims and disputes
  7. Documentation regarding stop work or suspension of work orders
  8. Contract closeout documentation
  9. Written record of Procurement History.

The FTA Best Practices Procurement Manual (BPPM) discusses contract file content in Chapter 5 – Contract Administration. (Revised: May 2017)

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Q. Is it a requirement for Third Party Procurement recipients to keep as a part of the contract file the contractor's bid/proposal envelopes when bids/proposals are received on time? If the envelope isn't made part of the contract file, will the recipient receive a written violation in their Triennial Review?

A. FTA Circular 4220.1F (PDF) does not require grantees to keep bid envelopes of on-time bids in the file. The Circular requires a public bid opening at the time and place prescribed in the IFB. We do believe the file should document the receipt of all bids with respect to the day and time they were received. See Page VI-9 of the Circular. (Posted: July, 2011)

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