A Pre-Award Protest Probably Isn’t the Place to Raise Suspicions of Wage Violations

Let’s suppose you’re a contractor that provides services to the federal government. Typically, your contract will require you to pay your employees the prevailing wage rates promulgated under the Service Contract Act.

What if you suspect that, under previous contracts, your competitors failed to pay their employees the mandated prevailing rates? Can you use a pre-award bid protest to obligate a procuring agency to police possible ongoing non-compliance through solicitation provisions? If you say yes, perhaps you should keep reading.

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Where Non-Price Ratings Identical, Agency Wasn’t Required to Choose Lower-Priced Offeror

In a best value competition, when two offerors receive identical adjectival scores on the non-price factors, one might assume that the procuring agency would be required to award the contract to the lower-priced offeror.

Not so.  In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that where two offerors received identical scores on three non-price factors, the agency could still elect to award the contract to the higher-priced offeror.

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Don’t Overlook the Seemingly Perfunctory in Your Proposal: CAGE Codes

As our readers well know, a good proposal for a federal government procurement is an exercise in persuasive writing. You muster your creative powers to convince the source selection authority that you offer the best product or service, that your price is competitive, and that your past performance is stellar. So you invest heavily in your proposal writers; you review your proposal repeatedly to polish and ensure that it compels; you agonize.

But while the artistic portion of your proposal is, without dispute, extraordinarily important, don’t neglect the seemingly mundane–like CAGE codes. Get that wrong, and GAO just might sustain your competitor’s protest.

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GAO: Protest Sustained Where Agency Improperly Applied Adjectival Ratings

Recently, GAO sustained a bid protest where the ratings assigned to the unsuccessful offeror’s proposal did not conform to the definitions identified within the Solicitation.

For those of you frequent the blog, you may recall earlier this year when we blogged on GAO’s decision in Immersion Consulting, LLC, B-415155 et al. (Dec. 4, 2017) where the Source Selection Authority had unilaterally revised the Source Selection Evaluation Board’s evaluation prior to making an award decision. GAO sustained the protest and instructed the agency to reevaluate proposals. This same procurement was subject to another round of protests following the agency’s reevaluation.

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GAO Jurisdiction Limited to Federal Agency Procurements, Whether or Not Federal Funds Involved

GAO has the authority to oversee bid protests involving many different government agencies. But its jurisdiction has limits, such as that it won’t consider protests of certain activities at the U.S. Mint.

One other limitation is that, when a federal agency provides funding to a non-federal entity and that non-federal entity procures services through competitive award, GAO will not consider a protest of that award. A recent GAO decision confirmed the lack of jurisdiction in a situation involving a competitive procurement by a federally recognized tribe using FEMA grant money.

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GAO Denies Protest Challenging SAM Registration

One of the first things a prospective government contractor (including a joint venture) must do to be eligible for an award is to create a business profile in the System for Award Management (or “SAM”). Before making an award, in fact, the contracting officer is obligated to verify the prospective contractor is registered in SAM.

Not only must a business be registered in SAM, but its registration should be up-to-date. It’s an enduring myth of government contracting that a business’s SAM profile only has to be updated annually. But as FAR 4.1201(b)(1) instructs, an offeror’s SAM profile has to be updated as necessary to ensure that it is “kept current, accurate, and complete.”

What happens if a prospective awardee fails to update its SAM profile? Can a disappointed bidder challenge the basis of the award? The answer, according to GAO, is “it depends.”

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