Emailing Your Proposal? Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute

I hate waiting until the last minute to do things.  My wife knows that we need to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare before our flight takes off, or I start getting stressed.  When I have a filing deadline, I tend to submit my documents well in advance.  Sometimes, I have to wait for a client’s sign-off on a final draft, or a last tweak to an exhibit, as the minutes to the deadline tick away.  When that happens, people who know me well can see my blood pressure begin to slowly rise.

My way of doing things isn’t everyone’s.  For folks who “work best under pressure,” as they say, working right up until a deadline is par for the course.  But as one recent GAO bid protest decision highlights, emailing a proposal to a procuring agency at the last minute can be dicey because electronic deliveries are not necessarily instantaneous.  Filing shortly before the deadline closes, even by email, may result in a late proposal.

In Alalamiah Technology Group, B-402707.2 (June 29, 2010), the Request for Proposals allowed for electronic submissions, and stated that proposals must be received by the agency at “10:00 AM Sharp” local time.   A contractor (probably working feverishly until the last minute) sent its three-volume proposal, one volume at a time, at 9:52 a.m., 9:57 a.m., and 10:00 a.m. the date proposals were due.

After the last volume was sent, the contractor’s employers may have wiped the sweat off their brows and congratulated themselves for squeaking in under the wire.  But any celebrations were premature.

A few weeks later, the contractor received notice that its proposal had been rejected.  The three volumes had been received at 10:03 a.m., 10:08 a.m., and 10:11 a.m.  Because the RFP called for receipt, not transmission, by 10:00 a.m., the agency determined that the proposal was untimely.

The contractor protested, but to no avail.  The GAO denied the protest, writing that “[a]n offeror’s responsibility to deliver its proposal to the proper place at the proper time includes allowing a reasonable amount of time for the delivery of the proposal.”  In this case, the GAO concluded, the contractor “did not act reasonably in waiting to transmit its electronic proposal until minutes before the time set for receipt of proposals . . ..”

Proposals can always be tweaked, adjusted, and improved, but there is no good reason for a contractor to still be tinkering with its proposal a few minutes before it is due.  Even when proposals are to be submitted electronically, wise contractors will finish and submit the proposal early, just to be on the safe side.

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