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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.