In VA Tiered Evaluation, Small Business Couldn’t Protest SDVOSB Discussions

After the Supreme Court’s unanimous Kingdomware decision affirmed the VA’s statutory obligation to prioritize SDVOSBs in its contracting, the VA authorized the use of so-called “tiered evaluations.” In a typical VA tiered evaluation, various categories of offerors can submit proposals, but SDVOSB proposals are considered first, then VOSB proposals, and so on.

Recently, a non-SDVOSB small business protested the VA’s decision to open discussions with the only SDVOSB offeror to submit a proposal–discussions that allowed the SDVOSB to win the contract. But according to the GAO, the small business couldn’t file a valid protest because the small business wasn’t in the same tier.

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Protester Argues the Agency Played “The Price Is Right” During Discussions

Negotiating with the federal government regarding pricing can sometimes feel like trying to win an RV from Bob Barker. Such was the experience of one protester. The government recommended a price increase during discussions and the contractor raised its price. The price increase, however, ultimately cost the offeror the award. The agency’s conduct was subsequently protested before GAO, but GAO was not receptive.

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COFC Clarifies When Agency Must Seek Clarification

Agencies have some discretion to seek clarification of a question after reviewing a proposal. But when must the agency do so? GAO allows agencies substantial discretion in choosing whether or not to seek proposal clarifications. But the Court of Federal Claims has a dramatically different standard than GAO for reviewing when an agency must seek clarification for a proposal.

A recent Court of Federal Claims decision confirms (as in a 2016 decision) that agencies should seek clarification for obvious proposal errors. But according to the court, there is a difference between an obvious proposal error and a calculated decision on the contractor’s part. This decision was about how to tell the difference.

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GAO: Agency Conducted Price Realism Analysis and Misled Protester

Unless a solicitation for a fixed-price contract provides that the agency can conduct a price realism analysis, it can’t. Even so, agencies sometimes perform this analysis without alerting prospective offerors of the possibility.

If they do, however, the ground is fertile for a protest.

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GAO: No Set Aside Required Where Offerors’ Prices Too High

An agency was justified in canceling a small business set-aside solicitation–and reissuing the solicitation on an unrestricted basis–where the agency determined that the prices offered by small businesses were too high.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO confirmed that while the FAR’s “rule of two” set-aside requirement provides a powerful and important preference for small businesses, it doesn’t require an agency to pay more than fair market value for products or services.

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GAO: Oral Final Proposal Revisions Were Permissible

An agency did not act improperly by allowing for oral final proposal revisions, rather than permitting offerors to submit written FPRs following discussions.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that–at least in the context of a task order awarded under FAR 16.505–an agency could validly accept oral revisions to offerors’ proposals.

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GAO: Unequal Opportunity To Revise Pricing Was Improper

An agency acted improperly by inviting the ultimate contract awardee to revise its pricing, but not affording that same opportunity to a competitor–even though the awardee didn’t amend its pricing in response to the agency’s invitation.

According to a recent GAO bid protest decision, merely providing the awardee the opportunity to amend its pricing was erroneous, regardless of whether the awardee took advantage of that opportunity.

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