Wrong File Format? No Problem, Says GAO (At Least This Time)

Ahh, fall. A time for football, hay rides, and returning to campus. Being in a college town, we are always reminded that students are back on campus due to the increased traffic, the homecoming parade, and the increased buzz (no pun intended) around the town. The onset of fall sometimes dredges up unwanted memories about turning in term papers and meeting all the inane requirements insisted upon by the professor.

A recent GAO opinion also brought me back to my college days. Specifically, what happens when the government (kind of like a college professor) sets a requirement for a certain type of file format for a solicitation, but the offeror submits a proposal in a different file format?  A recent GAO opinion answers that question in the contractor’s favor–although GAO’s ruling isn’t a blanket permission slip for contractors to ignore file format requirements.

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Contractor’s Lackadaisical Proposal Preparation Sinks Its Claim for Costs

To federal construction contractors, the true legwork may seem to begin only after the government has accepted a proposal and performance has begun. However, a recent Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals decision reinforces that federal construction contractors’ work often should begin long before contract award.

In Zafer Construction Company, ASBCA No. 56769 (2017), the ASBCA rejected a construction contractor’s allegations of unilateral mistake, unconscionability, and differing site conditions (among other claims for additional costs). The problem? The contractor did not attend a government scheduled site visit, conduct an independent site visit, review technical drawings, submit any inquiries during the proposal stage, or otherwise take reasonable steps necessary to better ascertain the nature of the work prior to submitting a multimillion dollar proposal on a complex project.

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Agency’s Conduct “An Egregious Example Of Intransigence And Deception,” Court Says

A procuring agency’s conduct in the course of evaluating proposals–and defending itself in four subsequent bid protests–was an “egregious example of intransigence and deception,” according to the Court of Federal Claims.

In a recent decision, Judge Eric Bruggink didn’t hold mince words, using terms like “agency misconduct,” “untruthful,” and “lack of commitment to the integrity of the process,” among other none-too-subtle phrases, to describe the actions of the Department of Health and Human Services.  But Judge Bruggink’s decision is striking not only for its wording, but because it demonstrates the importance of good faith bid protests to the fairness of the procurement process, in a case where HHS unfairly sought to “pad the record” in support of a favored bidder–and would have gotten away with it were it not for the diligent efforts of the protester.

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Government References Didn’t Complete PPQs? “Too Bad,” Says GAO

Federal contractors frequently find themselves in the position of needing to establish their past performance credentials to secure future contracts – the government’s form of a reference check. The government often performs these reference checks by requesting completed past performance questionnaires, or PPQs, which the government uses as an indicator of the offeror’s ability to perform a future contract.

But what happens when a contractor’s government point of contact fails to return a completed PPQ? As a recent GAO decision demonstrates, if the solicitation requires offerors to return completed PPQs, the agency need not independently reach out to government officials who fail to complete those PPQs.

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GAO: Extraneous Information Sinks Offeror’s Proposal

A recent GAO decision should serve to caution offerors to be careful what they include with their proposals. Any information that contradicts the proposal or otherwise does not conform to the terms of the solicitation could result in disqualification.

In Independent Systems, Inc., B-413246 (Comp. Gen. Sept. 15, 2016), GAO held that the agency could reasonably disqualify an offeror based on extraneous information the offeror included with the intent of providing the agency with more information, but not changing the terms of the offer.

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Insufficient Experience Information Sinks Offeror’s Proposal

An offeror’s failure to provide the type of past performance information mandated by a solicitation led to the offeror’s elimination from consideration for a  major GSA contract.

A recent GAO bid protest decision highlights the importance of fully reading and adhering to a solicitation’s requirements–including those involving the type of past performance or experience information required.

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Limitations On Subcontracting: “Affirmative Demonstration” Of Compliance Not Required

An offeror submitting a proposal for a set-aside solicitation ordinarily need not affirmatively demonstrate its intent to comply with the applicable limitation on subcontracting.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO confirmed that an offeror’s compliance with the limitations on subcontracting is presumed, unless the offeror’s proposal includes provisions that negate that presumption.

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