Traditionally, performance-based contracting methods have used
the term "quality assurance" to refer to the functions performed by
the government to determine whether a contractor has fulfilled the
contract obligations pertaining to quality and quantity. The term
"quality assurance," however, does not accurately capture the true
essence of performance-based service acquisition, since agencies do
not "assure quality"--rather they assess contractor performance. As
such, performance assessment is not surveillance. In a
performance-based environment, it is the contractor that is
contractually responsible for quality assurance, further motivated
through various kinds of incentives such as award-fee and past
performance assessments. Agencies are still responsible for ensuring
that they get what they are paying for by periodically evaluating
performance through the appropriate assessment methods. Hereafter,
"performance assessment" will be used in place of the term "quality
assurance otherwise noted.
Performance Assessment Plan
A performance assessment plan describes how government personnel
will evaluate and assess contractor performance. It is intended to be
a "living" document that should be revised or modified as circumstances
warrant. It is based on the premise that the contractor, not the
government, is responsible for managing and ensuring that quality
controls meet the terms of the contract. If the performance assessment
plan is not incorporated into the contract, it should nevertheless be
furnished to the contractor.
Quality Control Plan
A quality control plan is a plan developed by the contractor for
its internal use to ensure that it performs and delivers high-quality
service. Often the quality control plan is part of the contractor's
original proposal, and in many cases it is incorporated into the
Several methods can be used to evaluate a contractor's
performance. Below are some examples of commonly used assessment
Random sampling: Random sampling is a statistically based method
that assumes receipt of acceptable performance if a given percentage or
number of scheduled assessments are found to be acceptable. The results
of these assessments help determine the government's next course of
action vis-a-vis the contractor, if necessary, and whether adjustments
in this method of assessment are necessary. If performance is
considered marginal or unsatisfactory, the evaluators should document
the discrepancy or finding and begin corrective action. If performance
is satisfactory or exceptional, they should consider adjusting the
sample size or sampling frequency. Random sampling is the most
appropriate method for frequently recurring tasks. It works best when
the number of instances is very large and a statistically valid sample
can be obtained.
Periodic Sampling: Periodic sampling is similar to random
sampling, but it is planned at specific intervals or dates. It may be
appropriate for tasks that occur infrequently. Selecting this tool to
determine a contractor's compliance with contract requirements can be
quite effective, and it allows for assessing confidence in the
contractor without consuming a significant amount of time.
Trend analysis: Trend analysis should be used regularly and
continually to assess the contractor's ongoing performance over time.
It is a good idea to build a database from data that have been gathered
through performance assessment. Additionally, contractor-managed
metrics may provide any added information needed for the analysis. This
database should be created and maintained by government personnel.
Customer feedback: Customer feedback is firsthand information
from the actual users of the service. It should be used to supplement
other forms of evaluation and assessment, and it is especially useful
for those areas that do not lend themselves to the typical forms of
assessment. However, customer feedback information should be used
prudently. Sometimes customer feedback is complaint-oriented, likely
to be subjective in nature, and may not always relate to actual
requirements of the contract. Such information requires thorough
Third-party audits: The term "third-party audits" refers to
contractor evaluation by a third-party organization that is independent
of the government and the contractor. All documentation supplied to,
and produced by, the third party should be made available to both the
government and the contractor.
Performance Assessment Plan Development
Performance assessment plans should be developed in conjunction
with the preparation of the performance work statement. For every
performance objective listed in the Performance Requirements Analysis,
determine one or more methods of performance assessment. Also make sure
that the methods allows for adequate assessment of the performance
standard itself. In other words, will random sampling allow you to
adequately measure performance in relation to the stated performance
The performance assessment plan should outline the acceptance
process and should state how acceptance of services will occur (i.e.,
Performance assessment plans should describe how performance
information is to be captured and documented so that it can later
serve as past performance information.
Effective use of the performance assessment plan, in conjunction
with the contractor's quality control plan, will allow the government
to evaluate the contractor's success in meeting the specified contract
Those assessment methods identified in the performance
assessment plan, together with the contractor's quality control plan,
will also help in evaluating the success with which the contractor
delivers the level of performance agreed to in the contract.
Some Considerations for Determining the Appropriate Assessment
o What is the most effective way to assess the contractor's
performance outcomes in relation to the associated performance
o How critical is this particular task to the requirement and
to the overall mission? Is performance assessment critical to a
particular task, and is it is worth the government's time and effort?
o How long should the assessment period be? How is this linked
to the criticality of the task? How frequently should performance
assessment take place?
o What is the availability and of assessors (quality assurance
evaluators)? Are there enough evaluators to carry out the degree of
o do the proposed evaluation methods represent a common
commercial practice for the particular service area?
o Is re-performance practical or reasonable?
Suggested Performance Assessment Plan Outline
o Roles and responsibilities
o Methods of assessment
o Successful performance and remedies
o Certification of services
o Sample of contract discrepancy report
o Customer complaint procedures and training instructions
o Acronyms and other abbreviations
o TIP: Employ a variety of techniques. Degrees of performance
assessment should be based on the criticality of the service or task
and also on the resources available to accomplish the assessment.
o TIP: Recognize that the methods and degrees of performance
assessment may change over time in proportion to the evaluator's level
of confidence (high or low) in the contractor's performance.
o TIP: Degrees of performance assessment are typically based
upon difficulty or criticality of a service--the greater the difficulty
or criticality, the more performance assessment may initially be