4 C.F.R. 21.2(b) states that, for GAO protests, GAO has the option to dismiss or not dismiss a protest that is filed late if there is good cause or it is an important issue. In other words, if there’s a good reason, GAO can accept an untimely protest. (Please note that this is not suggesting the filing deadline does not matter, GAO treats it very strictly most of the time and you should treat it as a “drop-dead” deadline).
For this reason, some think this same discretion applies in other protests and appeals regarding government contracts. For the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA), it very much does not.
Generally, a size protest must be filed within five business days of when the protester receives notice of the identity of the awardee. But there are some nuances to this rule, such as whether a corrective action will extend the deadline and whether the clock starts running upon notice of the prospective awardee or the actual contract award date (Hint: notice of awardee).
But when does the 5-day protest period start to run in the context of a Blanket Purchase Agreement issued under a GSA Schedule contract? A recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision is a reminder that the award of a BPA does not trigger a new 5-day period to file a size protest.
GAO’s filing deadlines are strict, and a protest that does not abide by them generally will be dismissed. In All Native, Inc., B-411693 et al. (Oct. 5, 2015), the GAO expanded upon this rule by dismissing a protest where the protester missed a filing deadline by a single day. In doing so, the GAO refused to extend the deadline merely because the GAO’s email setting that deadline apparently ended up in the protester’s “spam” email folder.
One of the first questions a contractor must ask itself before filing a bid protest with the GAO is whether its protest would be timely filed. But as a recent GAO decision highlighted, the answer to that question might not be so clear.
Contrary to a common misconception, a protest is not always timely if filed within 10 days of a debriefing. As one prospective protester learned, if the debriefing is not “required” under applicable law, a GAO protest filed within 10 days of a debriefing might be untimely.