A recent GAO decision has shed light on the question of what an agency must do to adequately promote competition during a simplified acquisition.
There is still no bright line for determining which agency actions meet this threshold. However, the recent decision in Bluehorse Corp., B-415641 et al. (Feb. 6, 2018), established that merely inquiring about a solicitation, without taking further action as recommended by the procuring agency, is not enough to force an agency to include a company in a limited competition.
An agency failed to meet its obligations to properly publicize a simplified acquisition valued between $15,000 and $25,000 where the agency placed the solicitation in a three-ring binder at the reception desk in a government office–and that office was closed during most of the relevant time.
In a recent decision, the GAO affirmed that principle that even when the dollar value of a simplified acquisition doesn’t meet the requirement for electronic posting on FedBizOpps, the agency still must take reasonable steps to maximize competition.
Competition is the touchstone of federal contracting. Except in limited circumstances, agencies are required to procure goods and services through full and open competition. In this regard, an agency’s decision to limit competition to only brand name items must be adequately justified.
GAO recently affirmed this principle in Phoenix Environmental Design, Inc., B-413373 (Oct. 14, 2016), when it sustained a protest challenging the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management’s decision to restrict its solicitation for herbicides on a brand name basis.
The nonmanufacturer rule will not apply to small business set-aside contracts valued between $3,000 and $150,000, according to the SBA.
In its recent major rulemaking, the SBA exempts these small business set-aside contracts from the nonmanufacturer rule, meaning that small businesses will be able to supply the products of large manufacturers for these contracts without violating the limitations on subcontracting.
In a small business set-aside simplified acquisition of $25,000 or less, small business offerors may propose using large business manufacturers while still complying with the requirements of the nonmanufacturer rule.
In a recent decision, the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals held that an apparent ambiguity contained in the nonmanufacturer regulation for certain simplified acquisitions should be resolved in favor of exempting offerors from the requirement that the manufacturer be a small business concern.
The Army did not violate the Competition in Contracting Act by soliciting only three local sources for a simplified acquisition to be performed outside of the United States.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO explained that under the circumstances, the Army was not required to publish notice of the procurement on the FedBizOpps website, and satisfied the competition requirements by seeking quotations from three local sources.
Small business set-asides are not required for simplified acquisitions conducted outside the United States and its outlying areas, according to a recent GAO bid protest decision.
In Latvian Connection General Trading and Construction LLC, B-408633 (Sept. 18, 2013), the GAO rejected the protester’s contention–which was backed by the SBA–that simplified acquisitions must be set-aside whenever the “rule of two” is satisfied, notwithstanding the fact that the procurement is outside the United States.