Even if a proposal arrives in a government mailroom by the submittal deadline, the proposal is nevertheless “late” if it does not reach the location specified in the solicitation by the designated time.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO reaffirmed long-standing precedent that “receipt of a bid or proposal at a mailroom or other receiving area does not constitute receipt at the location specified in the RFP, provided the agency has established reasonable procedures to ensure that mailed bids or proposals are routed from the mailroom to the location designated in a solicitation for receipt.”
In Brian X. Scott, B-410195 (Nov. 7, 2014), the Military Sealift Command issued a request for proposals for a series of voyages to perform reapply deliveries to islands off the coast of California. The RFP stated that proposals were to be delivered to MSC offices at the Washington Navy Yard by 2:00 p.m. on July 30.
The RFP advised offerors that access to the Navy Yard was restricted. Accordingly, “Offerors, couriers, and other delivery services may encounter unpredictable and lengthy delays or denied access when attempting to enter that facility. Similarly, mailed and emailed proposals may encounter unpredictable and lengthy routing delays. In all cases, offerors are responsible for the risks associated with the chosen delivery method and for ensuring that the Government receives the complete proposal at the appropriate designated location prior to the due date and time for proposal submission.”
Brian X. Scott submitted a proposal using USPS Priority Mail Express (1-day service). Mr. Scott sent his proposal from Colorado Springs at 5:02 p.m. local time on July 29.
Mr. Scott’s proposal was not received at the Washington Navy Yard until July 31, at 11 a.m. Affixed to the package containing the proposal was a label that indicated that the package had been received on July 30 at 2:09 p.m. by the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, where all USPS mail for the Department of Navy, National Capital Region, including MSC, is delivered. Because the proposal was not received at the Washington Navy Yard by 2:00 p.m. on July 30, as required by the solicitation, the Contracting Officer rejected Mr. Scott’s proposal as late.
Mr. Scott filed a protest with the GAO. Mr. Scott argued that his proposal was received at the JBAB mail facility before the time set for the receipt of proposals and that the proposal was therefore under the agency’s control. Mr. Scott asserted that the proposal should have been considered timely received by the agency because the Navy maintained a chain of custody of his proposal from its receipt at the JBAB facility to the receipt at the MSC facility.
The GAO disagreed. Citing established precedent, GAO wrote, “[i]t is an offeror’s responsibility to deliver its proposal to the place designated in the solicitation by the time specified, and late receipt generally requires rejection of the proposal.” GAO continued:
“Even assuming Mr. Scott’s proposal arrived at the JBAB facility prior to the solicitation’s closing time, we find no basis to sustain the protest. Our Office has clearly held that receipt of a bid or proposal at a mailroom or other receiving area does not constitute receipt at the location specified in the RFP, provided the agency has established reasonable procedures to ensure that mailed bids or proposals are routed from the mailroom to the location designated in a solicitation for receipt. An offeror must allow sufficient time for the proposal to pass through any intermediate stops and reach the designated office on time.”
The GAO denied Mr. Scott’s protest.
The GAO’s decision in Brian X. Scott is a cautionary tale. An offeror is responsible for ensuring the timely arrival of their proposal at the location designated in the solicitation, even if the proposal will go through one or more “intermediate stops” when it is first received by the government. When an offeror submits its proposal very close to the submittal deadline–as was the case here–the risk of lateness is magnified.