GSA Schedule Debriefing Doesn’t Extend Protest Time Frame, GAO Says

You’ve submitted a great proposal, but then you get the bad news – you lost. As most seasoned contractors know, an unsuccessful offeror often can ask for a debriefing from the agency and in doing so, hopefully get some valuable insight into its decision-making process. Many also understand that the benefits of asking for a debriefing may include extending the timeline for filing a GAO bid protest.

But not all solicitations are subject to the same debriefing regulations, and depending on how the procurement was conducted, an offeror might not be entitled to that extended deadline–as one company recently learned the hard way in the context of a GSA Schedule procurement.

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OFPP: Effective Debriefings Reduce Protests

Debriefings play a vital role in the procurement process. When conducted fully and fairly, a debriefing provides an offeror with valuable insight into the strengths and shortcomings of its proposal, thus enabling the offeror to improve its offering under future solicitations. But when an agency provides only a perfunctory debriefing, the process can be virtually worthless–and may actually encourage an unsuccessful offeror to file a bid protest.

With this in mind, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy recently issued a memorandum that urges agencies to strengthen the debriefing process. In doing so, OFPP has encouraged agencies to adopt a debriefing guide that will help facilitate effective and efficient debriefings.

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SmallGovCon Week In Review: March 28 – April 1, 2016

While it may be April Fools’ Day, we promise not to play any pranks on you–not that I didn’t think about a headline trumpeting a major change in the 8(a) program, linked to a video of Rick Astley.

Instead of pranks, it’s time for our weekly dose of government contracting news and notes from around the country. In this edition of SmallGovCon Week In Review, you will find articles covering a potential shift in GSA schedules, the State Department’s audit findings on procurement waste,  a billion dollar award is split between 21 vendors to tackle the short and long term needs of the VA’s IT department, the second part of my interview with GovBizConnect, and much more.

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GAO: Protest of Exclusion From Competitive Range Untimely After Award

A protester’s failure to timely file its bid protest at GAO is almost always certain to lead to the dismissal of its protest. But knowing when the clock starts running for an offeror to file its protest isn’t always clear.

This uncertainty recently tripped up a would-be protester seeking to challenge its exclusion from the competitive range—because that offeror failed to request a pre-award debriefing, its attempt to protest its exclusion following the award and a post-award debriefing was untimely.

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A GAO Reminder: Know Your Protest Filing Deadline

One of the first questions a contractor must ask itself before filing a bid protest with the GAO is whether its protest would be timely filed. But as a recent GAO decision highlighted, the answer to that question might not be so clear.

Contrary to a common misconception, a protest is not always timely if filed within 10 days of a debriefing. As one prospective protester learned, if the debriefing is not “required” under applicable law, a GAO protest filed within 10 days of a debriefing might be untimely.

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GAO: Pre-Debriefing Bid Protest Was Premature

A GAO bid protest was dismissed as premature because the protest was filed before a statutorily-required debriefing was held.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO determined that the protest was premature even though the required debriefing had been delayed pending the resolution of a SBA size protest.

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Contractor’s Price Revealed to Competitors, GAO Says “Tough Luck”

When a contractor is declared the winner of a competition, the contractor’s bottom-line pricing is usually revealed to competitors.  Typically, the winner has no complaints: it is well-understood that the bottom-line pricing of winning contractors is usually considered public information (the taxpayers have a right to know how the government is spending their money).

But what if, after announcing the supposed awardee’s price, the agency changes its mind and re-opens the competition?  The price of the former “winner” is exposed, while the prices of its competitors remain a mystery.  It sounds unfair, but in a recent GAO bid protest decision, the GAO refused to require the procuring agency to level the playing field.

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