Government References Didn’t Complete PPQs? “Too Bad,” Says GAO

Federal contractors frequently find themselves in the position of needing to establish their past performance credentials to secure future contracts – the government’s form of a reference check. The government often performs these reference checks by requesting completed past performance questionnaires, or PPQs, which the government uses as an indicator of the offeror’s ability to perform a future contract.

But what happens when a contractor’s government point of contact fails to return a completed PPQ? As a recent GAO decision demonstrates, if the solicitation requires offerors to return completed PPQs, the agency need not independently reach out to government officials who fail to complete those PPQs.

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Insufficient Experience Information Sinks Offeror’s Proposal

An offeror’s failure to provide the type of past performance information mandated by a solicitation led to the offeror’s elimination from consideration for a  major GSA contract.

A recent GAO bid protest decision highlights the importance of fully reading and adhering to a solicitation’s requirements–including those involving the type of past performance or experience information required.

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Solicitation Improperly Excluded Affiliates’ Past Performance, Says GAO

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.

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GAO: Proposal Deadline Need Not Be Extended If Solicitation Amended

The GAO has held that the deadline for offerors to submit proposals need not be extended when an agency issues an amendment to the solicitation, unless the failure to extend adversely affects competition or was a deliberate attempt to exclude an offeror.

In a recent GAO bid protest decision, the GAO rejected the protester’s contention that the agency should have extended the proposal deadline to allow offerors more time to respond to two amendments–which were issued three days and one day, respectively, before the proposal due date.

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Contractor Improperly Downgraded for Lack of Agency-Specific Experience, Says GAO

A contractor bidding on a U.S. Department of State contract was improperly downgraded for failing to possess direct experience working with DOS, according to a recent GAO bid protest decision.

The GAO’s decision in Exelis Systems Corporation B-407111; B-407111.2; B-407111.3; B-407111.4 (Nov. 13, 2012) is notable because it is not unusual for procuring agencies to consider agency-specific experience as part of a past performance and/or experience evaluation.  According to Exelis Systems Corporation, such considerations may be deemed improper, unless they are spelled out in (or can be reasonably inferred from) the solicitation.

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GAO: Required Proposal Information Cannot Be Provided Post-Award

“We’ll tell you how we’ll manage the contract–after you award it to us.”

That, in essence, appeared to be the position taken by one contractor recently in response to a Department of Defense solicitation.  The contractor in question failed to provide an operations and management plan required by the solicitation, pledging to provide it after award.  Not surprisingly, the agency assigned the contractor an “unacceptable” score.  And equally unsurprising, the GAO denied the contractor’s bid protest.

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Contractor Alters Agency’s Pricing Table, Gets Bounced From Competition

During the NFL’s recent replacement referee debacle, the rules of the game sometimes seemed to be in flux.  San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, for instance, convinced the replacement refs to give him two extra challenges by playing dumb about how the challenge process works.  But with the “real” referees back on the field, NFL teams now know that they once again need to play by the rules.

When it comes to proposals, contractors, too, need to play by the rules.  An agency solicitation sets forth the ground rules of the competition, and varying from those stated rules can result in an unacceptable offer–as one contractor recently discovered when it attempted to amend the solicitation’s pricing table.

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