GAO Annual Bid Protest Report Shows 51% Effectiveness Rate

In 2020, the GAO Bid Protest effectiveness rate crossed the 50% threshold, higher than we’ve seen it in any recent year.  Overall, cases filed went down a mere 2% year over year.

GAO issues its yearly report as a requirement under statute. Congress is particularly concerned with knowing 1) which federal agencies didn’t follow GAO’s recommendations in bid protests and 2) if GAO did not issue a decision in 100 days. As like most years, GAO was “pleased” to report that all agencies followed its recommendations, when given, and that it timely (within 100 days) decided all bid protests.

The 51% effectiveness rate is a huge threshold for GAO to cross in 2020. What does the effectiveness rate mean, you may ask? The effectiveness rate captures the protests in which a protester obtained some form of relief–either from the agency taking voluntary corrective action or GAO sustaining the protest. The top reasons for sustaining protests in 2020 were 1) unreasonable technical evaluation, 2) flawed solicitation, 3) unreasonable cost or price evaluation, and 4) unreasonable past performance evaluation.

2019 saw a 16% decline in GAO Bid Protests filed, 2020 followed this trend with a 2% decline from 2019. Interestingly, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) cases rose 300% compared to 2019. We will keep an eye on how GAO utilizes ADR going forward.

What could happen in 2021? If 2020 is any indication, we will be dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic through 2021. The latest Covid Relief and NDAA bills are currently held up in Washington, DC. With a new administration set to take office in January as well, we will be keeping a close eye on changes in priorities, which could potentially have an impact on GAO bid protest statistics going forward.

Overall, GAO’s report is good news for protesters. GAO is moving quickly through cases, and protesters are actually more likely than not to receive some form of relief. Bid protests show a consistent effective avenue to address mishandled procurements.

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