Protecting sensitive business information, especially pricing, is essential even in the GAO bid protest realm. As an agency found out, even an inadvertent release of such information could lead to a sustained protest.
This slip up resulted in the cancellation of a nearly $1 billion contract. Needless to say, this was a big deal. How did this happen, and what should parties be looking for to protect their confidential data?
One of the first things a prospective government contractor (including a joint venture) must do to be eligible for an award is to create a business profile in the System for Award Management (or “SAM”). Before making an award, in fact, the contracting officer is obligated to verify the prospective contractor is registered in SAM.
Not only must a business be registered in SAM, but its registration should be up-to-date. It’s an enduring myth of government contracting that a business’s SAM profile only has to be updated annually. But as FAR 4.1201(b)(1) instructs, an offeror’s SAM profile has to be updated as necessary to ensure that it is “kept current, accurate, and complete.”
What happens if a prospective awardee fails to update its SAM profile? Can a disappointed bidder challenge the basis of the award? The answer, according to GAO, is “it depends.”
If you’re a winner under a solicitation, you can’t challenge the ground rules under which you won–at least under the facts of a recent GAO bid protest decision.
In that decision, GAO concluded that the protestor of a solicitation’s terms lacked standing when the protester was subsequently identified as an awardee under the solicitation.