SmallGovCon Week In Review March 11 – March 15, 2019

Happy Friday, everyone! If you’re a college basketball fan (who isn’t?), this is one of the best times of the year. Things stay pretty interesting around our office in March and April, between our assortment of KU, Duke, and North Carolina fans. We hope you enjoy the games this weekend!

Before tipoff, let’s rundown the latest government contracting news. In this week’s edition of the Week In Review, we’ll discuss DoD’s ongoing cloud computing legal battle, GAO’s report on health and safety of defense contractors’ employees, the government’s end-of-year buying spree, and more government contractors behaving badly.

Have a great weekend!

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GAO: Agencies Can’t Blindly Rely on Adjectival Ratings to Make Award Decisions

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.

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GAO: Agency Didn’t Reasonably Evaluate a Potential OCI

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.

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Section 809 Panel: Congress Should Order Government to Communicate with Contractors

Congress should require Government acquisition personnel to communicate with industry, according to the Section 809 acquisition reform panel.

In the third and final volume in its series on streamlining and improving DoD acquisition processes, the Section 809 Panel takes aim at Government reticence to communicate with industry, and says that merely permitting such communications doesn’t go far enough.

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Don’t File an Appeal with CBCA Before Filing a Claim with the Contracting Officer

Let’s suppose that, under your contract, an agency hasn’t properly paid for your work. Or the agency took actions that caused you damages. Can you run off to the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals to register your complaint and recovery your money?

Yes . . . if you’ve taken an important preliminary step: filing a claim with the contracting officer.

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GAO Sustains Protest Where Agency Failed to Reasonably Evaluate Past Performance

GAO defers to agencies on many issues related to their procurements. But GAO will intervene when an agency says one thing, in a solicitation, but does another when it evaluates proposals. In other words, GAO will sustain protests when the agencies disregard their own evaluation criteria outlined in a solicitation.

Otherwise, the agency might–even inadvertently–evaluate proposals unequally–a situation that a just and fair procurement system must avoid. 

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