An agency can’t award an offeror a contract if its proposal doesn’t conform with a material solicitation requirement. So if, for example, the solicitation requires certain types of documentation showing an offeror’s right to use property, but the awardee offers something different, GAO will likely sustain a protest.
Put differently, GAO won’t let an agency relax key solicitation requirements even though the agency might, during evaluation, accept the non-complying proposal.
In evaluating proposals, an agency will sometimes use “adjectival ratings” (e.g., Excellent, Good, Acceptable) to describe its assessment of a proposal or portions of a proposal. But, importantly, an agency cannot evade its responsibility to reasonably evaluate proposals–based on the articulated evaluation criteria–by deferring solely to the assigned adjectival ratings.
In other words, if the agency doesn’t perform a true qualitative assessment, but instead relies on mere labels to make its ultimate award decision, GAO will likely slap the agency’s hand.
GAO generally defers to an agency’s judgment when it comes to the evaluation of proposals. This deference flags, however, when an agency evaluates competing proposals inconsistently; or, in other words, treats offerors disparately.
Let’s take a look at how GAO, in a recently sustained protest, found that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable.
GAO’s bid process can be difficult to understand. There are rules about who can file a bid protest and what issues can be protested. And the deadlines for filing are strict and unforgiving.
In the February 2019 issue of Contract Management Magazine (the monthly publication of the National Contract Management Association), we provide a plain English overview of GAO’s bid protest process. We think that, whether you’ve been a federal government contractor for many years or just a few, you’ll find it informative. The magazine has kindly allowed us to post the article. Click here to view and happy reading!
In all competitive procurements, agencies must identify and analyze, as soon as possible, whether a potential contractor has an actual or potential organizational conflict of interest. (OCIs come in three general varieties: unequal access to information, biased ground rules, and impaired objectivity.) If the agency finds one, it must avoid, neutralize, or mitigate the potential OCI to ensure fairness.
As one recent GAO decision illustrates, an agency’s failure to reasonably investigate a potential OCI can lead to a sustained protest.
You’ve likely heard of small business set-asides, SDVOSB set-asides, 8(a) Program set-asides, HUBZone set-asides, and other set-aside categories regulated, for the most part, by the Small Business Administration. But have you ever heard of a Stafford Act set-aside?
If not, you might want to keep reading about GAO’s recent analysis where it assessed whether the awardee was eligible for the Stafford Act set-aside.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, if you want to initiate a size protest, you generally must do so within 5 business days after the contracting officer notifies you of the prospective awardee’s identity.
But what happens if, after learning that you did not receive the award, the agency does something that suggests its award decision wasn’t final–e.g., reopens discussions with offerors and seeks revised proposals? Would your size protest still be late if didn’t file within the 5-day time frame?
Take a guess. And keep reading to find out the answer!