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.
Federal agencies have long been afforded wide discretion in defining solicitation requirements to meet their contracting needs. But are a solicitation’s requirements acceptable even where they’re likely to conflict with local zoning codes? What about where the solicitation documents conflict with one another on whether certain requirements are considered “requirements” at all? And finally, is an LPTA procurement acceptable where such conflicts have undoubtedly led to price uncertainty among the bidders?
GAO says, “yes” to all of these, so long as the requirements meet the agency’s needs.
A procurement may not be set aside for SDVOSB concerns without also including mandatory VA set-aside VAAR provisions, including the limitation on subcontracting.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that a solicitation was flawed where the cover sheet indicated that the solicitation would be set aside for SDVOSBs, but the solicitation omitted the mandatory VAAR SDVOSB set-aside clause.
I was grocery shopping the other day, and I had to make the tough choice between the name-brand cereal and the store-brand cereal. I don’t know about you, but with some products, the name brand has a certain flavor that the store brand just can’t replicate. When it comes to government contracts, the same is true–sometimes the government wants a certain brand or supplier and will accept no substitutes.
GAO recently held that, where an agency required quotations including parts from one approved source of supply, and an offer is submitted that proposes an “alternate product,” the agency can reasonably reject the bid–and that a protest of the approved source restriction itself is untimely if it isn’t filed before the proposal deadline.
Patent ambiguities present in the solicitation for an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity procurement must be protested prior to the close of proposal submission for the base contract—waiting to protest at the task order level may be too late.
A recent GAO decision shows that when an IDIQ solicitation contains an obvious ambiguity, the rule is “speak now or forever hold your peace.” By the time task order competitions get rolling, the chance to protest will likely be gone.
Imagine that only days remain until your proposal is due, and your company receives a discussions letter from the agency. Reading the letter, you’re confused—one of the agency’s instructions seems to directly contradict the solicitation. What do you do?
If you’re like most contractors, the last thing on your mind is running to the GAO with a bid protest. After all, you haven’t even submitted your proposal—the last thing you want to do is upset the agency before it even evaluates your offer. So you take your best guess as to what the agency intends and submit your final proposal revision. If the agency makes award to a competitor, you can protest at that time, right?
Wrong, according to a recent GAO bid protest decision.