GAO Upholds Low Agency Bar to Waive OCI

The FAR requires offerors, in most situations, to disclose any actual or potential organizational conflicts of interest (OCI) that exist when submitting an offer or proposal in response to a solicitation. While it is rare that an offeror will be excluded from competition solely due to the existence or potential of an OCI, offerors who do not disclose as required will most likely be excluded, making this a situation where you generally want to disclose the existence of an OCI up front, not explain after the agency’s discovery through other means. Offerors may choose to avoid, mitigate, or neutralize an OCI by putting up a organizational barrier between the individual creating the OCI and the perceived or actual conflict. However, in some situations, avoiding, mitigating, or neutralizing the OCI may not be in the agency’s best interest. In that case, and as happened in Accenture Federal Services, LLC, agencies are given the option to waive the requirements of FAR subpart 9.5, thereby making award regardless of the existence or potential of an OCI.

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New OCI Law Focuses on Private Sector Contracts, More Examples, More Procedures

Late 2022, the president signed a law that would increase what contractors have to reveal about potential organizational conflicts of interest. The law is called the Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act. Below, we highlight some of the main things contractors should look out for based on this new law.

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Playing Games? GAO Requires NASA to Scratch $650 Million Contract Due to Foosball Snafu

While most of our get-togethers these days involve mask wearing, social distancing, and even virtual happy hours, spending time with friends is a great way to keep spirits light. Unfortunately for one group of friends, their weekly hangouts led GAO to conclude in its recent decision, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc., B-418835 (Sept. 25, 2020), that NASA had to cancel a more than $650 million deal and start the procurement process all over.

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Ring Ring! GAO Sustains Protest of Awardee’s Conflict of Interest

Agencies have broad discretion when it comes to evaluating potential organizational conflicts of interest–but that discretion isn’t unlimited. In a recent decision involving a fight between two telecommunications giants, the GAO sustained the protest, holding that the the agency unreasonably concluded that there was no possibility of an “impaired objectivity” OCI arising from the award.

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GAO Rejects Innuendo-Based OCI Disqualification

Thinking about hiring an employee of the incumbent contractor for your next bid? If so, make sure to protect yourself from disqualification based on an organizational conflict of interest.

In a recent bid protest by Archimedes’ Global, Inc., the GAO reversed the Government’s decision to exclude Archimedes from consideration for a bid when an alleged OCI was based on mere innuendo and supposition instead of hard facts supported by the record.

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Joint Ventures & OCIs: A Cautionary Tale

For small government contractors, joint ventures can be an important vehicle for successfully pursuing larger and more complex opportunities.  As the SBA’s All Small Mentor-Protege Program enters its second full year, the popularity of joint ventures seems to be increasing significantly.

But joint ventures aren’t immune from the FAR’s rules governing organizational conflicts of interest. In a recent decision, the GAO held that an agency properly excluded a joint venture from competition where one of the joint venture’s members–through its involvement in a second joint venture–had assisted in the preparation of the solicitation’s specifications.

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GAO Finds Offeror’s Protest of OCI Exclusion Untimely

To be timely, a GAO bid protest challenging the terms of the solicitation must be filed no later than the proposal submission deadline.

A recent GAO decision affirmed that, at least in some cases, this deadline applies to an offeror’s elimination from competition based on an organizational conflict of interest. Because the offeror knew of its potential conflict and the agency’s position on its eligibility before its proposal was submitted, its post-evaluation protest was untimely. GAO dismissed its protest.

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