Past Performance Isn’t Always a Required Evaluation Factor, Says GAO

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.

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GAO Allows Contracting Officer Discretion to Act as Tie-Breaker

Your company has submitted a proposal for a Lowest-Priced, Technically Acceptable acquisition. To your surprise, you find out another company has submitted a technically acceptable offer with the same price. Equally surprising, the solicitation does not contain any provisions instructing the agency on how to pick from otherwise equal bids. So what is the contracting officer to do – issue an order for a standoff, a la the O.K. Corral? (For the record, we do not advise this as a viable method of conflict resolution.)

Fortunately, GAO encourages a less drastic solution–use of the contracting officer’s reasonable discretion.

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