When a federal solicitation is vague, ambiguous or internally contradictory, it is common for offerors to hold their tongues. Instead of challenging the solicitation’s defects before proposals are due, many offerors decide to submit proposals and “see how it plays out.” Later, if the award goes to a competitor, these offerors may try to protest the solicitation’s defects.
It’s unsurprising that offerors can be reticent to rock the boat before an award is made. But a recent GAO bid protest decision demonstrates, complaining about the ground rules after award rarely works.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: when it comes to submitting your GAO protest, meeting GAO’s strict timeliness requirements is a must. So is watching out for notices on contract awards posted online. In Prudential Protective Services, LLC, B-418869 (Aug. 13, 2020), the protest was dismissed as untimely because it was filed more than 10 days after notice of the award was posted to beta.SAM.gov.
As our regular readers know, a GAO protest challenging an agency’s evaluation decision must be filed within 10 days from the date the protester knew (or should have known) of the protest grounds, or within 10 days from the date the protester receives its debriefing (but only if the debriefing was required and timely requested). 4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(2).
But sometimes, an agency might give an offeror a reason to protest before it makes its official award determination. In that case, should the offeror wait to file its protest until the agency completes its evaluation?
In some cases, no—the protest should be filed within 10 days from the date the agency makes its determination known.
Over the years, we’ve written a fair number of blogs about how contractors have been either too early or too late to protest. What we haven’t blogged about is a situation where a contractor is premature and late. Unfortunately for one protester, GAO has recently confirmed that you can, indeed, be both too early and too late to protest.
Ignorance is bliss,
right? Not always. In the world of government contracting, GAO recently dismissed
a protest because its initial agency protest was not timely filed, reminding
the protester that ignorance of the law is no excuse.