For small businesses, the SBA’s Certificate of Competency process can offer a powerful “second bite at the apple,” essentially allowing a small business to appeal to the SBA if a procuring agency finds the small business non-responsible.
But the SBA CoC process is limited to findings of non-responsibility under FAR Part 9. As GAO recently held, there is no right to appeal to SBA if the proposal was rejected for failing to adequately explain the small business’s technical approach.
In a recent decision, Eminent IT, LLC, B-418570 (June 23, 2020), GAO held that the Department of State improperly removed a requirement from the SBA’s 8(a) program where the solicitation did not create a “new requirement.”
Facilities security clearances are a common requirement for Department of Defense procurements. While important for national security reasons, these solicitation requirements can also create confusion with respect to evaluation.
A recent GAO decision demonstrates how confusion can arise when a contractor holds multiple CAGE codes, only one of which corresponds to a cleared facility.
An agency can’t award an offeror a contract if its proposal doesn’t conform with a material solicitation requirement. So if, for example, the solicitation requires certain types of documentation showing an offeror’s right to use property, but the awardee offers something different, GAO will likely sustain a protest.
Put differently, GAO won’t let an agency relax key solicitation requirements even though the agency might, during evaluation, accept the non-complying proposal.