The government’s hard shift away from lowest-price, technically acceptable evaluations has magnified the importance of past performance in many competitive acquisitions. For start-ups and other companies new to the federal marketplace, past performance requirements can present a significant barrier to success.
Oftentimes, companies with little or no past performance of their own can offer the past performance of another entity, such as a subcontractor or joint venture partner. But the rules surrounding the use of another entity’s past performance are often misunderstood–and recently, the rules have evolved quickly.
Here are five things you should know about using the past performance of a subcontractor, joint venture partner, or affiliate.
by Erin Andrew
One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is planning their exit strategy too soon. Whether a contractor wants to enter, grow, or exit the market, a small business owner must understand how buying or selling their business can play a large role in their success. Below are some tips for all three phases:
In its evaluation of past performance, an agency was permitted to disregard a past performance reference prepared by an offeror’s sister company–which also happened to be in line for a subcontracting role.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO upheld the agency’s determination that the sister company’s reference was “inherently biased” and need not be considered in the agency’s past performance evaluation.
For Federal Supply Schedule procurements, agencies are not required to evaluate past performance references of subcontractors, unless the solicitation provides otherwise.
As one offeror recently discovered in Atlantic Systems Group, Inc., B-413901 (Jan. 9, 2017), unlike negotiated procurements, where agencies “should” evaluate the past performance of subcontractors that will perform major or critical aspects of the contract, offerors bidding under FSS solicitations should not assume that a subcontractor’s past performance will be considered.
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act gives certain small subcontractors a new tool to request past performance ratings from the government.
If the pilot program works as intended, it may ultimately improve those subcontractors’ competitiveness for prime contract bids, for which a documented history of past performance is often critical.
An agency acted improperly by excluding an offeror from the competitive range simply because the offeror received a “neutral” past performance score.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO wrote that the FAR precludes evaluating an offeror unfavorably because of a “neutral” or “unknown” past performance rating–and that the prohibition on unfavorable treatment prevents an agency from excluding an offeror from the competitive range on the basis of a neutral rating.
Where a solicitation contemplated a “pass/fail” evaluation of past performance, and stated that an offeror without relevant past performance would nonetheless be rated “Acceptable,” there was no basis for the agency to compare the relative quality or amount of offerors’ past performance.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that the procuring agency properly refused to give the protester credit for its allegedly superior past performance because the pass/fail evaluation scheme did not allow for such a comparative evaluation.