GAO Bid Protests: “Sustains” Lower But “Effectiveness” Steady

The GAO sustained only 13% of bid protests in Fiscal Year 2014, down from 17% in the previous fiscal year.

But although some commentators might interpret the numbers as a sign that more non-meritorious protests were filed, the “effectiveness rate” (which measures sustain decisions plus voluntary agency corrective actions) remained steady at 43%.  In other words, agencies are taking corrective action more frequently in response to GAO bid protests–but when the agency doesn’t take corrective action, the protester’s odds of success may be long.

According to the GAO’s FY 2014 Bid Protest Report, 2,561 bid protests were filed in FY 2014, up five percent from the previous year.  Of these, only 556 protests were decided on the merits, meaning the GAO only issued 556 formal “sustain” or “deny” decisions. The GAO sustained 72 protests, and denied the remainder of the 556 “merit decisions.”

But the 72 “sustain” decisions tell a misleading story.  Including corrective actions, protesters obtained some form of relief in more than 1,000 cases.  In other words, in the vast majority of cases when a protester receives relief, it is through corrective action, not a formal sustain decision.

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