The Army refused to pay the invoices not because PROTEC didn’t do the work, but because the electronic invoices and reports were submitted late. PROTEC argued that “the government suffered no prejudice from the late electronic reports and invoices because timely paper reports, the maintenance schedule, and the contracting officer representative’s (COR’s) role in arranging emergency repairs allowed the government to verify performance.” The ASBCA agreed with the Army because for “repairs in particular, timely reports and invoices were necessary to verify the time and material charges.” ASBCA’s ruling was short and sweet: “Because PROTEC submitted electronic reports and invoices late, the government properly refused to pay the unpaid invoices.” PROTEC’s arguments to the contrary were not well supported. This decision is a reminder that, in government contracting, submitting invoices and records is just as important as doing the work if a contractor wants to be paid. The ASBCA will not be sympathetic to a claim that seeks payment of late invoices, absent unusual circumstances such as government delay.
Don’t Forget to Submit Invoices On Time, Says ASBCA
The government is a reliable customer that pays it bills on time. That is, if the contractor submits an invoice that is correct, on time and per the instructions in the contract. Understandably, government contractors tend to focus on the scope of work but paying attention to the administrative requirements in the contract is equally as important. Shane McCall, attorney with Koprince Law LLC provides an example in case law of a business that did not follow the invoicing instructions in the contract and paid the price.
The government can find many reasons to try and reject a claim. Don’t give them any easy reasons to reject if you can help it. One of those reasons to try and avoid–sending invoices late. In PROTEC GmbH, ASBCA No. 61185, 19-1 B.C.A. ¶ 37351 (2019), the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) considered the appeal of a claim by PROTEC to have the Army pay invoices for equipment maintenance and repair at an Army garrison. The contract “required PROTEC to submit an electronic on-call emergency report within two days of performing an emergency repair, and an electronic condition report (collectively, reports) within seven days of performing maintenance.” Electronic invoices for the prior month were due by “the 10th working [day] of the next month.” The record showed that “PROTEC did not submit electronic emergency repair reports within two days of emergency services, or electronic condition reports within seven days of maintenance. Rather, PROTEC documented its work by completing paper work certificates.” But it did not submit the paper certificates on time either. PROTEC also missed the submission deadline for invoices by months and years. PROTEC argued that the late submissions were due to government delays in “receiving signed work certificates from the government.” But the board noted that PROTEC could not identify the specific invoices that were late because of this reason, nor how long the delay was because of the government’s inaction.