Acquisition & Assistance Ombudsman Frequently-Asked Questions

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Question:  Should Block 10(d) of the SF425 - Total federal funds authorized as of the reporting date – contain the Total Estimated Amount or just the Obligated amount?

Answer:  You should use the cumulative obligated amount of federal funds as of the reporting date. This should not be the Total Estimated Amount as funds are not authorized for expenditure until obligated. Additionally, please note, USAID has decided to forego the use of the SF425 Guide. 

Question: What kind of inquiries can be sent to the PSC Ombudsman Mailbox?

Answer:  The main purpose of the PSC Ombudsman is to respond to inquiries from personal services contractors specific to their contracts with the Agency. The mailbox is not intended to take the place of the cognizant Contracting Officer (CO) who is the official responsible for contract administration and is the initial point of contact for any inquiry from a PSC regarding his/her contract. If questions are not resolved after consultation with the CO, the PSC Ombudsman may be contacted and the cognizant Contracting Officer must be included in any communication with the PSC Ombudsman.

Question: Can the Ombudsman give legal advice?

Answer:  No. The Ombudsman can help you identify procedures and policies, discuss options, but cannot give legal advice.

Question: How can my organization obtain a direct loan or grant from USAID to start our business or to support our program?

Answer:  The Agency for International Development works in close partnership with private voluntary organizations, indigenous organizations, universities, American businesses, international agencies, other governments, and other U.S. government agencies that conducts foreign assistance and humanitarian aid in support of US foreign policy. The agency works to support long-term and equitable economic growth and advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting economic growth, agricultural and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. We fund bilateral assistance programs for the sole purpose of development of foreign countries. Any program funded in whole or in part by USAID must meet a specific USAID strategic objective.

Question: How does my firm become a certified or registered supplier for USAID?

Answer:  To be eligible to apply for USAID awards (and all U.S. federal awards), organizations must register in the following systems:

  • DUNS (Data Universal Number system) Number
  • CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity Code) for U.S. based organizations or NCAGE (NATO Commercial and Government Entity Code) non-U.S. based organizations
  • SAM (System for Award Management)

Visit for updated postings on how to work with USAID.

U.S. and international private voluntary organizations (PVOs) wishing to become eligible for assistance (grants and cooperative agreements) from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and that meet USAID's definition of a PVO, must register with USAID. USAID may partner with a variety of organizations that do not meet this definition-such as churches, synagogues, mosques or other similar religiously affiliated institutions; universities; private foundations; and hospitals. Under USAID policy however, no funds appropriated under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act may be made available to a PVO, as defined by the first four Conditions of Registration (see Conditions of Registration), that is not registered with USAID. Disaster assistance funding and funding through sub-grants or contracts are not subject to this requirement.

The registration requirement does not pertain to local nongovernmental organizations or indigenous PVOs. In the absence of registration, Missions are encouraged to ensure that any local organization receiving funding from USAID is able to manage the funds, and has financial control systems in place to do so. A pre-award survey is recommended in such cases. Additional information on the PVO registration process as well as a list of registered PVOs can be found at


Question: How can a firm do business with USAID?

Answer: Information on how to work with USAID is available here. USAID does business through a variety of available federal mechanisms -- each with their own distinct policies, forms, procedures and associated documents. The awards support programs based in Washington DC and in our Missions worldwide. Each solicitation will include a description of the USAID objectives, instructions for submissions, evaluation factors (selection criterion against which your offer will be evaluated) and a point of contact. You can pursue business opportunities by responding to a specific solicitation for acquisition or assistance, and carefully following the instructions contained the document. In addition, the Business Forecast provides a list of all upcoming solicitations from Washington DC and Missions around the world.

Acquisitions: agency requirements for direct contracts are announced and solicited on through Request for Quotes (RFQ), Request for Proposals (RFP) and Invitation for Bid (IFB's) when the cost is estimated to exceed $25,000.

Assistance: Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) for Cooperative Agreements and Grants are published on

Small Purchases (less than $25,000) are solicited through RFQs

Ocean Transportation: opportunities for doing business under USAID's food aid program. These opportunities will be directed at firms that supply ocean transportation and related services.

Commodities Goods: Commodities procurement requirements are advertised in the Procurement Information Bulletin (PIB) as required by Section 602 of the Foreign Assistance Act.


Question: How would a small business work with USAID? Are there special considerations for small businesses?

Answer:  The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is the initial point of contact at USAID for U.S. small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses, HUBZone small businesses and service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses. OSDBU is a small business advocacy and advisory office with the responsibility for ensuring that these enterprises receive access to USAID programs. OSDBU examines USAID buying needs for possible set-asides for 8(a) and other small businesses prior to publication on the FedBizOpps website, sponsors outreach conferences on "How To Do Business with USAID," participates in national, regional and local conferences sponsored by both private and public organizations, and reviews all prime contracts to identify subcontracting opportunities for small businesses. You can find more information on small business participation in USAID programming here.

Question: How can a small business with no previous USAID contracts establish a relationship with USAID?

Answer:  The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is the best starting point for a small business that is new to USAID. Information on OSDBU is available here. The OSDBU website includes a list of contacts for each region of the world and technical bureau. The specialist responsible for each area (whether it is a country or sector) can help identify opportunities and further points of contact.

Question: How can a firm express its interest in teaming with other firms, or in being subcontractor for USAID acquisitions and assistance?

Answer:  As USAID development assistance programs/activities are complex in nature, actual performance and achievement of the objectives may require specialized expertise from multiple professions/business lines. Therefore, it is recommended that organizations offering specialized service/product lines market themselves to entities interested in submitting offers on a specific solicitation published in or Another alternative is to market to the entities that already do business with USAID.

In the e-government environment, solicitations are downloaded from the internet by the interested party, and as such A&A Officials do not know who is interested in bidding. However, an Interested Vendors list populated with information by vendors who download the solicitation is available on the FBO website. If the list is not available, you should advise the point of contact listed in the solicitation. Awards of contracts may be announced in FBO or you can call the responsible procurement official to obtain the name of organizations that received the award under a specific solicitation.

In addition, the USAID website, including the mission websites, often includes the names of organizations working on specific programs and in specific countries.

Question: How can an individual become a consultant under USAID contracts/grants?

Answer: Often consultant services are required under USAID contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements. If you are interested in working for a USAID contractor or recipient you will need to contact the organization directly.

Question: How do I get on the list to be notified of solicitation announcements, amendments?

Answer:  You can sign up to receive notices from and for pre-solicitations and their modification, notices of solicitation and solicitation amendment releases and general procurement announcements. Information for the vendor notification service can be found on the FBO home page at Information for the applicant notification service can be found on the home page at

You can also sign up to receive alerts about the Business Forecast, conference calls, and other information at

Question: Does the Agency for International Development buy any goods and services from non- - U.S. vendors/suppliers?

Answer: USAID funding can be used to procure commodities and services from Non-U.S. firms. Generally, the procurement of commodities and services, including procurements under grants/cooperative agreements, are subject to 22 CFR 228 Rules on Source, Origin and Nationality for Commodities and Services Financed by USAID . The regulation can be found on the USAID website at and the relevant agency policy is accessible in the Automated Directive System ADS chapters 310-314 on the USAID website at The following information is offered with the intention of putting the overall source, origin and nationality concept into an overall context, but it is only an outline.

Documents that solicit contract proposals (request for proposals {RFP}) and grant applications (notices of funding opportunities {NOFOs}) include a three digit "geographic code" used to identify one or more geographic locations designated as compliant with source, origin or nationality rules.

The major considerations that determine eligibility for using USAID funding for the purchase of commodities are the source and origin of the commodities and the nationality of the suppliers of the commodities. Where USAID funding is used for procurement of services the area of consideration that determines eligibility of the service is the nationality of the supplier of the services.

Procurement of Commodities

Commodity means any material, article, supply, goods, or equipment.

Source and Origin of commodities (22CFR228.11) - Source means the country from which a commodity is shipped to the cooperating country, or the cooperating country if the commodity is located therein at the time of the purchase (see 22CFR228.1(l). Origin means the country where a commodity is mined, grown or produced. (see 22 CFR 228 .1(j). Additional guidance to consider is source and origin of components. Component means any good that goes directly into the production of a produced commodity (22CFR228.1(c)).

Nationality of suppliers of commodities (22 CFR 228.31) - The rules on nationality of suppliers of commodities relate only to the suppliers, and not to the commodities they supply. The nationality of the supplier is an additional eligibility criterion to the rules on source, origin and componentry. Supplier means any person or organization, governmental or otherwise, who furnishes services, commodities and/or commodity related services financed by USAID (22CFR228(1)(n).

Special rules on source and nationality of commodities (22CFR228.14) - Agricultural and products thereof must be produced in the United States in addition, Motor Vehicles and Pharmaceutical products must be manufactured in the United States. In accordance with 22CFR228.1(o) United States means the United States of America, any State(s) of the United States, the District of Columbia, and areas of U.S. associated sovereignty, including commonwealths, territories and possessions.

Procurement of Services

Services mean the performance of identifiable tasks, rather than the delivery of an end item of supply (commodity).

Nationality of Supplier of Services (22 CFR 228.31)

Commodity Related Services

(a) The eligibility of commodity related services ocean transportation services is determined by the flag registry of the vessel.) Commodity-related services means delivery services and/or incidental services.

  • Delivery service means any service customarily performed in a commercial export transaction which is necessary to effect a physical transfer of commodities to the cooperating country.

  • Incidental services means the installation or erection of USAID-financed equipment, or the training of personnel in the maintenance, operation and use of such equipment.

Question: Does USAID have a listing or database, worldwide, of the contractors and recipients with whom the Agency does business?

Answer:  We do not currently have a complete database of worldwide USAID awards (e.g., contracts, grants, etc.). You can find information on organizations that have won awards from USAID:

  • in the recent award notices section of Federal Business Opportunities at http: and for assistance recipients at

  • on the USAID Mission websites under the links for "Where We Work" and "Mission Directory" at

Question: Will USAID consider unsolicited proposals or concept papers? Where can I find guidance?

Answer:  USAID may consider unsolicited concept papers that contribute new ideas consistent with and contributing to the accomplishment of the Agency's objectives in the countries in which it operates. The requirements for obtaining supplemental USAID mission resources are program specific, must be responsive to host country needs and must met the criteria for unsolicited proposals/applications. You can find information on unsolicited proposals here, in the Work With USAID section of the website.

The "Who We Are" webpages at contain information about the agency's organizational structure that can be helpful to you in determining where to send a concept paper. A full list of bureaus and offices can be found in the Organization Chart. Do not send your unsolicited proposal to the Acquisition & Assistance Ombudsman.

Question: Does USAID offer scholarship assistance?

Answer:  USAID does not provide tuition grants or scholarships to individuals. Information about USAID’s internship programs is available here.  The U.S. Department of State also may have helpful information at

Question: Does USAID have a maximum pay rate for contract salaries?

Answer:  The standard that USAID uses as the "USAID contractor salary threshold" (CST), formerly know as the "maximum daily rate", is the equivalent of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) maximum rate of pay for agencies without a certified SES performance appraisal system.

When researching the rate, follow these steps:

  • Go to the OPM web page at

  • Click on “Policy” and then "Pay and Leave”

  • Under “Salaries and Wages,” click on Schedule for "Basic Rates of Pay for Members of the Senior Executive Service (SES)"

  • The "USAID CST" will be the amount established for Agencies without a Certified SES Performance Appraisal System.

The USAID CST policy applies to types of contracts in which the actual salary of the individual is considered in establishing the price or the fixed labor rate for services. It is not applicable to grants or cooperative agreements.

Question: Can USAID assist a subcontractor working on a USAID funded project with resolving a disagreement with the prime contractor?

Answer:  Although USAID does not have a contractual relationship with subcontractors, the Ombudsman will assist subcontractors in resolving any issues that fall within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

For all other questions or suggestions, we can be reached at the following email