The GAO generally will not consider a protest contending that a solicitation’s specifications should be made more restrictive.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO declined to consider a protester’s contention that the solicitation should require offerors to demonstrate specific experience in the type of work to be performed.
The GAO’s decision in Olympus Building Services, Inc., B-411474, B-411474.2, B-411474.3 (July 30, 2015) involved a Department of Defense Education Activity solicitation for janitorial and custodial services at the Fort Campbell School System in Kentucky. The solicitation called for award to the lowest-priced, technically acceptable offeror.
Non-price proposals were to be evaluated as “acceptable” or “unacceptable” on four factors: technical approach, management approach, quality control plan, and past performance. The solicitation did not require experience with janitorial or custodial services in schools in order to achieve an “acceptable” past performance rating.
Olympus Building Services, Inc., the incumbent contractor, filed a pre-award bid protest challenging various aspects of the solicitation. Among its challenges, Olympus argued that the solicitation improperly did not require specific experience providing janitorial and custodial services in schools. Olympus argued that providing janitorial and custodial services in schools is different than providing these services in federal office buildings, and therefore the agency should have required such experience.
The GAO wrote that “Olympus is essentially complaining that the requirements are not sufficiently restrictive.” The GAO stated that it ordinarily will not consider such challenges:
Generally, our Office will not consider protests that specifications should be made more restrictive since our role in reviewing bid protests is to ensure that the statutory requirements for full and open competition are met, not to protect any interest a protester may have in limiting competition through more restrictive specifications.
The GAO dismissed this aspect of Olympus’s protest.
The GAO frequently hears bid protests challenging solicitation specifications as too restrictive. But, as the Olympus Building Services case demonstrates, the GAO ordinarily will not hear a protest alleging that a solicitation is insufficiently restrictive.
It is important to note, however, that this rule does not apply in every case. For example, the GAO typically will hear a protest alleging that a solicitation issued as “unrestricted” should actually have been set-aside for small business. Of course, FAR Part 19 requires set-asides in certain circumstances; the GAO will determine whether an agency’s set-aside decision satisfied the FAR’s requirements. In contrast, there is no FAR requirement that offerors on a solicitation for janitorial and custodial services possess specific experience providing those services in schools.