Proving that an agency acted improperly in its source selection process can be a difficult task for any protester. In theory, for a best value tradeoff decision, the agency’s decision and the process to come to that decision seems easy: the agency does a tradeoff between cost and non-cost factors, and that which is most advantageous to the government is awarded. How hard could it be? And the decisions handed down by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) seem to confirm that it isn’t that hard, seeing as many cases challenging a best value decision are denied. This is, in large part, due to the discretion agencies are afforded in their source selection decisions. Whether an agency conducts discussions during the source selection process is one of many procurement factors that is left up to the agency’s discretion. But, every so often, a decision comes along to prove that there are limits to an agency’s discretion, and in this case, the agency’s discretion overstepped its bounds with its price reasonableness decision and the unjustified decision to not perform discussions.Continue reading
Tag Archives: discussions
Who You Gonna Call? Your Contracting Officer (Part 2)
In our line of work, we regularly litigate protests, claims, appeals, etc., against the Government. But often, procuring and contracting issues can be resolved without the need for litigation–via a little-known method we like to call “talking things out with your CO.” There are also some important things to keep in mind regarding communications with your contracting officer during the proposal submission process. This article is the second of three articles aimed at providing helpful tips for communicating with your contracting officer. Part 1, which focused on pre-solicitation and solicitation communications, can be found here. This article will focus on proposal submission communications. And the third will focus on contract performance communications.Continue reading
GAO Affirms any Discussions During Evaluations Must be Meaningful
Evaluation of offers is a crucial point in the procurement process. During this time period, an agency may, in certain procurements, reach out with discussion questions meant to bring clarity to the decision-making process. However, any such discussions must be meaningful.
As one offeror recently found out, meaningful discussions even apply in so-called simplified acquisitions.Continue reading
GAO: Unequal Exchanges With Offerors by Agency Leads to Sustained Protest
An agency providing an opportunity to substantially revise a proposal can seem too good to be true. And sometimes, it is. It is a fundamental principle of procurement law that offerors must be treated equally. When one offeror is given an opportunity to “fix” the deficiencies in its proposal, but the other offeror is not, that is fundamentally unfair.
As one offeror found out, despite submitting everything to the agency as it was asked, GAO still sustained the protest.Continue reading
Proposal Points of Contact: Don’t Rely on Automatic Email Response, GAO Decision Warns
Agencies commonly ask offerors to designate a point of contact for communications about the proposal. But what happens if the person the offeror identifies is unavailable when the agency reaches out?
A recent GAO bid protest decision is a cautionary tale and suggests some best practices for offerors.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading