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.
The acronyms and terminology used in federal government contracting can be a labyrinth–one sadly devoid of David Bowie. In this post, we’ll clarify some of the common methods used for government procurements, the regulations defining them, and the terminology associated with them.
Under FAR Part 15 negotiated procurements, an agency must give notice and an opportunity to request a debriefing to offerors eliminated from the competitive range. But the notice requirement does not apply for task and delivery order procurements under FAR Part 16 where FAR Part 15 is inapplicable.
A recent GAO decision highlights this distinction.
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.
An agency’s evaluation of proposals was not improper even though the Source Selection Authority “cut and paste” portions of a selection document used in a similar procurement–including typographical errors and a reference to a firm that had not submitted a proposal.
The GAO’s recent decision highlights an uncomfortable truth of government contracting: while the government can (and often does) demand nearly perfect proposals, the government may be able to get by with sloppy or lazy evaluations.