For companies trying to break into the government market for the first time, past performance can seem a bit like the old chicken-and-egg conundrum. Sometimes it can appear like a company can’t win a government contract without a strong record of past performance–but can’t build a past performance record without contracts! And with the government’s continued movement away from lowest-price, technically acceptable evaluations, past performance seems increasingly important.
But that doesn’t mean the government always has to consider past performance as an evaluation factor. Instead, as a recent GAO bid protest decision confirms, procuring agencies have broad discretion to omit past performance in appropriate cases.
While being fashionably late to a party may give the impression that one is a busy and popular person that was held up with other business, being fashionably late in federal contracting will typically have dire consequences.
However, a recent GAO bid protest decision demonstrates that when providing completed past performance questionnaires, or PPQs, being fashionably late may be acceptable – at least when the references were submitted directly by government officials, rather than the offeror.
Federal contractors frequently find themselves in the position of needing to establish their past performance credentials to secure future contracts – the government’s form of a reference check. The government often performs these reference checks by requesting completed past performance questionnaires, or PPQs, which the government uses as an indicator of the offeror’s ability to perform a future contract.
But what happens when a contractor’s government point of contact fails to return a completed PPQ? As a recent GAO decision demonstrates, if the solicitation requires offerors to return completed PPQs, the agency need not independently reach out to government officials who fail to complete those PPQs.