GAO: 28-Day Proposal Period Was Reasonable

A 28-day period was sufficient time for offerors to prepare proposals in response to a solicitation for janitorial and mechanical services.

In a recent decision, the GAO held that, under the circumstances of the procurement, it was reasonable for the agency to allow fewer than 30 days to respond to the solicitation–and noted that the protester’s delayed search for teammates was a “significant reason” for the protester’s own difficulties in submitting a timely proposal.

The GAO’s decision in Richen Management, LLC, B-410903 (Mar. 10, 2015) involved a GSA procurement for janitorial and mechanical maintenance services at the Land Ports of Entry in Jackman and Coburn Gore, Maine.  A sources sought notice for the requirement was published on FedBizOpps on January 14, 2014.  The requirement was synopsized via FedBizOpps on October 8.

On November 6, the RFP was issued via FedBizOpps as a small business set-aside utilizing commercial item procedures.  The due date for offers was December 2.  A pre-proposal conference was held on November 17.  After GSA issued amendments to the RFP, the due date for offers was extended to December 4.

Richen Management, LLC apparently waited until the November 17 pre-proposal conference to determine potential teammates.  On December 1, Richen requested that the agency extend the due date by one week. GSA denied Richen’s request.  Five proposals were received by the December 4 due date.

Richen filed a GAO bid protest.  Richen asserted that GSA did not allow sufficient time for offerors to prepare their proposals.  Specifically, Richen argued that “the 28-day period between issuance of the solicitation and the amended closing date afforded insufficient time in which to furnish the extensive information required under the solicitation.”

The GAO noted that agencies generally must allow at least 30 days between the date of issuance of the RFP and the receipt of proposals.  However, if the agency is acquiring commercial items, as it was in this case, an agency may allow fewer than 30 days to respond to a RFP.  The GAO wrote that, when acquiring commercial items, the contracting officer “should afford potential offerors a reasonable opportunity to respond considering the circumstances of the acquisition, such as the complexity, commerciality, availability, and urgency of the individual acquisition.”

The GAO held  that the GSA acted properly by denying Richen’s request to extend the due date.  The GAO noted that the RFP was issued for commercial janitorial and mechanical maintenance services, and thus, the GSA could allow fewer than 30 days to respond to the RFP.  Further, potential offerors were put on notice of the forthcoming RFP on January 14, 2014, almost 11 months before the closing date.  More details were provided in the October 8 synopsis, 57 days before the due date.  Additionally, the procurement could not be delayed any further if continuity of services was to be maintained.

Moreover, the GAO wrote, Richen’s own delay in finding teammates appeared to be a “significant reason” why Richen required an extension.  The GAO wrote that “Richen was on notice of the agency’s requirement as long ago as January 14, and on notice of the actual procurement as of the October 8 synopsis.”  Thus, there was no reason why Richen had to wait until the November 17 pre-proposal conference to determine its teammates.

Proposal deadlines are often extended.  Even in Richen Management, GSA granted two additional days.  But as the case demonstrates, offerors should not assume that extensions will be granted or that they will have at least 30 days to prepare and submit proposals.

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