GAO Sustains Another “Unreasonably Restrictive Solicitation” Bid Protest

If a government solicitation contains a term that is unreasonably restrictive of competition, you may be able to successfully protest the matter to the GAO, which has sustained a number of such bid protests.  The GAO’s decision in Missouri Machinery & Engineering Co., B-403561 (Nov. 18, 2010) is a good example of a successful GAO bid protest based on an unreasonably restrictive solicitation term.

In Missouri Machinery, the Coast Guard issued a solicitation for the repair and overhaul of Gould model 3655 pumps on coastal patrol boats.  The Request for Quotations stated that, to be technically acceptable, offerors must certify that they were Gould authorized repair facilities, and further stated that only genuine Gould original equipment manufacturer parts were to be used in the overhaul.

Missouri Machinery & Engineering Co., which was not a Gould authorized repair facility, filed a pre-award bid protest with the GAO, arguing that the limitation unduly restricted competition, in that the Coast Guard had not presented any basis to show that non-authorized repair facilities could not adequately perform that work.  The company presented evidence showing that, despite its lack of Gould authorization, it had successfully repaired and overhauled similar pumps in the past.

The GAO agreed.  It found that the restriction was improper because the Coast Guard lacked a reasonable basis to believe that the contract could not be performed by a contractor without a Gould authorization.  Because the RFQ’s limitations unduly restricted competition, the GAO sustained the protest.

If you believe that a solicitation term unreasonably prevents your company from competing for work it is qualified to perform, you may be able to file a successful GAO bid protest, just like Missouri Machinery did.  But remember: GAO bid protests challenging solicitation terms must be filed pre-award, that is, prior to bid opening or the date for receipt of proposals.  Missouri Machinery wisely filed its protest before the deadline.  Had Missouri Machinery waited until the contract had been awarded to a competitor, it likely would have been out of luck.

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