In all competitive procurements, agencies must identify and analyze, as soon as possible, whether a potential contractor has an actual or potential organizational conflict of interest. (OCIs come in three general varieties: unequal access to information, biased ground rules, and impaired objectivity.) If the agency finds one, it must avoid, neutralize, or mitigate the potential OCI to ensure fairness.
As one recent GAO decision illustrates, an agency’s failure to reasonably investigate a potential OCI can lead to a sustained protest.
An incumbent contractor performing VA CVE SDVOSB verification functions was ineligible to be be re-awarded an order for those services because of an unmitigated organizational conflict of interest.
In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims upheld the VA’s decision to cancel the award to the incumbent contractor and exclude that contractor from the follow-on order.
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.