Joint Ventures & OCIs: A Cautionary Tale

For small government contractors, joint ventures can be an important vehicle for successfully pursuing larger and more complex opportunities.  As the SBA’s All Small Mentor-Protege Program enters its second full year, the popularity of joint ventures seems to be increasing significantly.

But joint ventures aren’t immune from the FAR’s rules governing organizational conflicts of interest. In a recent decision, the GAO held that an agency properly excluded a joint venture from competition where one of the joint venture’s members–through its involvement in a second joint venture–had assisted in the preparation of the solicitation’s specifications.

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GAO Sustains Protest of “Unduly Restrictive” Solicitation Requirement

GAO typically affords agencies wide discretion to establish technical restrictions within solicitations.

In a recent decision, however, GAO confirmed that such discretion is not unbounded. When an agency’s technical restriction is unduly restrictive of competition, the GAO will sustain a bid protest.

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PPQs Submitted Late? “No Problem,” Says GAO–At Least In One Case

While being fashionably late to a party may give the impression that one is a busy and popular person that was held up with other business, being fashionably late in federal contracting will typically have dire consequences.

However, a recent GAO bid protest decision demonstrates that when providing completed past performance questionnaires, or PPQs, being fashionably late may be acceptable – at least when the references were submitted directly by government officials, rather than the offeror.

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GAO Suspends Protester–Again–For “Abusive Litigation Practices”

The GAO has suspended a protester for “abusive litigation practices,” for the second time.

Last year, the GAO suspended Latvian Connection LLC from participating in the GAO bid protest process for one year, after the firm filed 150 protests in the course of a single fiscal year.  Now, citing “derogatory and abusive allegations,” among many other concerns, the GAO has re-imposed its suspension–this time, for two years.

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GAO: Agencies May Consider Outside Past Performance Information

When an agency requests that offerors provide past performance references, the agency ordinarily is not precluded from considering outside past performance information.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO confirmed that an agency’s past performance evaluation may include information outside the past performance references submitted by the offeror–and the agency can use any negative past performance information to downgrade the offeror’s score.

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GAO Bid Protest Effectiveness Hits 47%–So Why Doesn’t Bid Protest “Reform” Address Government Shortcomings?

GAO bid protests succeeded almost half the time in Fiscal Year 2017.

According to the GAO’s latest Bid Protest Annual Report, the effectiveness rate of GAO bid protests was 47% in the recently-completed fiscal year.  The statistics are striking, because they come just as Congress is finalizing the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes measures aimed at reducing bid protests.  But with bid protests succeeding at a nearly 50% clip, why does the protest “reform” debate seem to center almost entirely on discouraging contractors to protest, rather than on decreasing the number of flawed source selection evaluations?

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Sorry: No GAO Protests of U.S. Mint Procurements

As a branch of the Treasury Department, the United States Mint would usually be subject to federal procurement laws, like bid protests. As one contractor recently discovered, however, certain activities at the Mint have been exempted from many federal procurement laws, including GAO protest review.

Simply put, the GAO can’t decide a bid protest of Mint procurements.

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