5 Things You Should Know: Disaster Relief Federal Government Contracting

The 2018 Hurricane Season is now in full swing and the damage cost totals continue to rise for our friends on the East Coast. Disasters, like hurricanes, often arise quickly and without much warning, requiring quick responses from the Government and government contractors.

If your small business has been impacted by a natural disaster, or is interested in participating in the rebuilding and relief efforts that follow cataclysmic events by acquiring government contracts, here are five things you should know.

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GAO Puts Substance Over Form in Past Performance Protest

Recently, GAO sustained a bid protest where an agency “unreasonably excluded” a joint venture’s proposal, which included all necessary information listed in the solicitation, from competition.

GAO held that it was unreasonable for the agency to exclude the joint venture merely because the joint venture’s proposal didn’t include a subcontract number for one of its past performance references. GAO held, in essence, that the missing information was irrelevant because it had no bearing on the type of work completed.

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GAO: Agency Shouldn’t Have Allowed Bid Correction

When a contractor submits a sealed bid that includes a mistake, the contractor may be allowed to correct its bid, if there must be clear evidence of the error on the face of the bid.

According to a recent GAO decision, however, absent clear evidence, it is unreasonable for an agency to allow a bid correction.

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GAO: Email Delivery Receipt Didn’t Confirm Proposal Submission

You might think that if you send an email with the delivery receipt option and the delivery receipt comes back, the email was delivered. But when an offeror submits a proposal by email, does a delivery receipt mean that the agency necessarily received the proposal in its inbox?

At least under the facts of one recent GAO bid protest, the answer was “no.” In that case, the GAO held that an email delivery receipt wasn’t sufficient to demonstrate that the agency received the electronic proposal.

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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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