Federal agencies have long been afforded wide discretion in defining solicitation requirements to meet their contracting needs. But are a solicitation’s requirements acceptable even where they’re likely to conflict with local zoning codes? What about where the solicitation documents conflict with one another on whether certain requirements are considered “requirements” at all? And finally, is an LPTA procurement acceptable where such conflicts have undoubtedly led to price uncertainty among the bidders?
GAO says, “yes” to all of these, so long as the requirements meet the agency’s needs.
A major tenet in government contracting is that agencies enjoy broad discretion in identifying their needs and developing the most appropriate solicitation to satisfy them. Though broad, this discretion is not unlimited. If challenged, an agency must demonstrate that its specifications are reasonably necessary to meet its needs and are not unduly restrictive of competition.
GAO recently affirmed this principle in Pitney Bowes, Inc., B-413876.2 (Feb. 13, 2017), when it sustained a protest challenging a solicitation’s requirements as being unduly restrictive of competition.
In a solicitation seeking the award of a follow-on services contract, a procuring agency could validly disclose the number of incumbent personnel performing a particular function.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that this information was not proprietary or confidential to the incumbent, and that the incumbent was not competitively harmed by the release of the information.
The GAO generally will not consider a protest contending that a solicitation’s specifications should be made more restrictive.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO declined to consider a protester’s contention that the solicitation should require offerors to demonstrate specific experience in the type of work to be performed.
A procuring agency was entitled to evaluate proposals during the course of a pre-award GAO bid protest without violating the automatic stay provision of the Competition in Contracting Act.
According to a recent federal court decision, CICA merely prohibits the award of a contract during the course of a GAO protest, but does not prevent an agency from continuing to evaluate proposals.
A small business set-aside procurement did not violate the FAR’s restrictions on contract bundling, according to the GAO.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO pointed out the bundling occurs when a procurement would be unsuitable for award to small business, and held that a set-aside procurement–by its nature–is not unsuitable for small businesses.
According to the GAO, a solicitation was unduly restrictive because it prohibited the consideration of the past performance of an offeror’s affiliates–even when the affiliates would contribute to performance of the contract.
The GAO’s bid protest decision in Iyabak Construction, LLC, B-409196 (Feb. 6, 2014) demonstrates that agency restrictions on the consideration of past performance must be reasonable. However, the Iyabak Construction decision should not be interpreted as standing for the principle than an agency can never exclude the past performance of an offeror’s affiliates if those affiliates will contribute to contract performance. Rather, the case suggests that it was the government’s failure to offer a good explanation–not the underlying restriction itself–that led to the “sustain” decision.