SBA Size Protest Deadlines: What About Corrective Action?

If a prospective contractor wishes to file a size protest, it must act quickly: the protester ordinarily has five business days to initiate its protest. But does the deadline get extended if the agency takes corrective action in response to a bid protest?

Maybe, maybe not.  A recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision examines that question.

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Strict GAO Timeliness Rules Apply to Supplemental Protests

GAO interprets its bid protest timeliness rules very strictly, as readers of this blog will know. These timeliness rules typically pertain to the initial protest, but are equally important when a protester files a supplemental protest. Often, supplemental protests are filed after the protester receives the agency’s response and comes to learn new information that wasn’t previously available.

If a supplemental protest raises allegations independent of those set forth in the initial protest, the supplemental protest must independently satisfy GAO’s strict timeliness rules. A recent GAO decision shows how easy it can be to slip up on these deadlines when considering a supplemental protest.

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NAICS Code Appeals: Infrequent, but Often Successful

Because the NAICS code governs the size standard used to determine whether a company qualifies as a small business, the choice of a NAICS code can dramatically affect the competitive landscape for a set-aside acquisition.

The only legal procedure for challenging the NAICS code assigned by the contracting officer is to appeal the assignment to the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. A NAICS code appeal can be an extraordinarily powerful tool for a business to challenge whether a contracting officer assigned the correct NAICS code in setting aside a procurement.

So how often are NAICS code appeals filed, and how often do these NAICS code appeals succeed? A recent GAO report has some answers.

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2018 NDAA: Changes to the HUBZone Program

The HUBZone program has received its fair share of coverage on our blog, from recommended changes in the 35% employee-location requirement to SBA regulatory updates to the program. Well, the HUBZone program is once again undergoing some changes thanks to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act–but note that some of these changes are not effective until January 1, 2020.

These changes include a requirement for an improved online mapping tool, a mandate that HUBZone verifications be processed in 60 days, and more. Here’s a look at some of the most significant HUBZone changes in the 2018 NDAA.

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Agencies Cannot Circumvent AbilityOne by Bundling, GAO Confirms

The FAR mandates that agencies use the AbilityOne program to award contracts for items on the AbilityOne procurement list to qualified nonprofits. The purpose of the program is to increase employment and training opportunities for persons who are blind or have other severe disabilities.

With rare exceptions, when an item is on the AbilityOne procurement list, an agency has no choice–it must purchase through AbilityOne, even where the AbilityOne items are included in the procurement of larger services.  The GAO recently sustained a protest where the GSA awarded a courthouse lease without requiring that the associated custodial services be procured from an AbilityOne nonprofit.

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“Deemed Withdrawal” of Agency-Level Protest Sinks Subsequent GAO Protest

Readers of this blog will know that the GAO interprets its protest timeliness rules quite strictly. A recent GAO case provides us with an opportunity to review a nuanced piece of those timeliness rules. Specifically, how withdrawal of an agency-level protest affects the deadline to file a GAO protest, and what counts as a withdrawal of an agency-level protest versus an “initial adverse agency action.”

In this case, the protester lost its GAO protest rights by trying to pursue its agency-level protest with an inspector general’s office rather than with the contracting officer.

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Nonprofits Not Exempt From Affiliation Rules, Says SBA OHA

A recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision confirms that there is no exception for nonprofit organizations when it comes to affiliation issues.

In the case, SBA OHA found affiliation between a self-certified small business and a nonprofit organization based on close family members controlling both the business concern and ​the ​nonprofit.​ Adding in the receipts from the affiliated nonprofit made the business in question ineligible for small business status.

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