Given the amount of competition in most solicitations, the ability of a contractor to receive feedback on its proposal can provide valuable information to help the contractor hone its response to best address the key factors sought by the agency in its solicitation. On those rare occasions when an agency reopens its solicitation and provides feedback to the individual offeror’s initial proposal, the contractor is provided such an opportunity–except when the contractor gets left out of the feedback party.
In a recent decision, an agency failed to disclose a flaw it first identified in its reevaluation of a contractor’s unchanged proposal after a corrective action. When the proposals were evaluated after the corrective action, the contractor ended up losing an award for which they were previously selected. As a result, the contractor filed a protest primarily asserting that, because the agency failed to provide feedback on its proposal, the agency’s evaluation of the proposal was unreasonable. GAO sustained the protest.
As federal contractors begin to become engaged in multiple programs for a particular agency, the potential for the firm to encounter a situation where it finds itself involved in an organizational conflict of interest (OCI) may increase. This is particularly true with respect to “impaired objectivity” OCI, which is when a firm’s ability to render impartial advice to the government is or might be undermined by the firm’s competing interests. These OCIs often arise in service contracts where the contractor is placed in a position of evaluating its own performance on other contracts.
In a recent case, GAO found that an agency’s award of a contract created an impermissible impaired objectivity OCI for a contractor from two different perspectives for services that the contractor provided in the capacity as both a prime and subcontractor for an agency. The case is Steel Point Solutions, LLC B-419709,B-419709.2 (July 07, 2021).
From a recent GAO decision it appears that the ends can, in fact, justify the means; at least when it comes procurement set-asides for HUBZone companies. The decision is Foxhole Technology, Inc. B-419577 (May 12, 2021). In this matter, Foxhole Technology, Inc., a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, protested the Department of Education’s decision to set aside an RFQ to supply cybersecurity services for HUBZone businesses. In its protest, Foxhole argued that the agency’s decision to set aside the procurement for HUBZone small business concerns was based on inadequate market research and was therefore not justified. GAO denied the protest.
In my last blog post I wrote about a contractor’s unsuccessful attempt to convince the GAO that its solicitation was improperly dismissed as being untimely because the State Department didn’t recognize its automatic “out of office” email reply response. It appears that federal agencies in general are unforgiving when it comes to a contractor’s reliance on electronic communications without follow-up.
In a recent case, the SBA Office of Hearing Appeals (OHA) rejected a contractor’s petition for reconsideration upholding the OHA’s appeal of a cancellation of the contractor’s verified status as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses because it could not access a cancelation letter through a link provided by the VA.
A recent GAO decision provides a costly lesson about the importance of having internal procedures to receive and respond to official e-mail communications when a company team member is unavailable. The stakes can be big–GAO recently dismissed a contractor’s protest challenging the Department of State’s decision to cancel a solicitation. The question in this matter revolved around when a party is deemed to have received constructive notice of an agency’s cancellation of a solicitation.