OCI mitigation plans are one of the most common ways for contractors to address any actual, potential or apparent organizational conflicts of interest that could arise if the contractor won the award. For busy contractors, it’s tempting to simply cobble together a generic OCI mitigation plan, perhaps borrowing liberally from whatever questionable websites pop up in a Google search. But as one contractor discovered in a GAO bid protest decision, an insufficient OCI mitigation plan can lead to very bad results.
In GAO Protest of C2C Solutions, Inc., B-401106.5 (Jan. 25, 2010), the Department of Health and Human Services issued a solicitation for various oversight and audit work. One offeror, AdvanceMed Corporation, indicated as part of its proposal that it might have an “impaired objectivity” OCI because its work could result in AdvanceMed evaluating its own parent corporation. AdvanceMed presented an OCI mitigation plan which the contracting officer initially rejected, then accepted after a brief, one paragraph amendment to the OCI mitigation plan.
A competitor filed a GAO bid protest, alleging that HHS should not have accepted the OCI mitigation plan. After reviewing the OCI mitigation plan, GAO agreed, and sustained the protest.
GAO found numerous faults with AdvanceMed’s OCI mitigation plan. Perhaps most important, the GAO wrote that the plan “lacks the necessary level of detail to reasonably assess the viability of AdvanceMed’s mitigation approach.” This “inherent lack of detail” made it impossible for the agency to adequately evaluate the plan.
In addition, portions of the OCI mitigation plan’s substance were “fundamentally problematic.” For example, AdvanceMed indicated that it might subcontract out certain problematic functions, but, under the circumstances, “it is not apparent how such an option would be feasible or effectively mitigate the conflict.”
The lesson of C2C Solutions is that contractors must take OCI mitigation plan requirements seriously. OCI mitigation plans should be thorough, detailed, and substantive. Sure, you might get away with a subpar plan once or twice. But at some point, a poor OCI mitigation plan could cost you a contract, as happened to AdvanceMed.