Congress Requires Large Primes to Provide Past Performance Reviews to Small Subcontractors–And Agencies to Consider Them

Breaking into the federal government contracting marketplace can be challenging, and many small businesses choose to start as subcontractors. But when those companies later bid on prime contracts, they sometimes find that they cannot get past performance reviews for their subcontract work, or that the government won’t consider such reviews.

Now, Congress has stepped in. A provision in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act will require large prime contractors to provide small businesses with past performance reviews in certain cases, and will require agencies to consider them.

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GAO to Agency: Offerors are More than Just a CPARS-Generated Rating Percentage

GAO recently sustained protest to an agency’s FAR Part 13 procurement that relied exclusively on CPARS-generated assessment chart rating percentages to evaluate vendors’ past performance. The agency’s goal was to “maximize competition” by considering all past work, rather than just relevant work.

While there is no FAR Part 13 regulatory prohibition on doing so, GAO found the CPARS charts incomplete and misleading and the evaluation inconsistent with the terms of the solicitation.

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GAO: Evaluation of Affiliate’s Past Performance is Optional

In its past performance evaluation, an agency typically can consider the past performance of an offeror’s affiliate, so long as the offeror’s proposal demonstrates that the resources of the affiliate will affect contract performance.

But, as demonstrated in a recent GAO decision involving an Alaska Native Corporation subsidiary, ordinarily there is no requirement that an agency consider an affiliate’s past performance.  In other words, unless the solicitation speaks to the issue, the agency’s consideration of an affiliate’s past performance is optional.

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Past Performance Reference From Sister Company Was “Inherently Biased”

In its evaluation of past performance, an agency was permitted to disregard a past performance reference prepared by an offeror’s sister company–which also happened to be in line for a subcontracting role.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO upheld the agency’s determination that the sister company’s reference was “inherently biased” and need not be considered in the agency’s past performance evaluation.

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GAO: Offeror Improperly Excluded For “Neutral” Past Performance

An agency acted improperly by excluding an offeror from the competitive range simply because the offeror received a “neutral” past performance score.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO wrote that the FAR precludes evaluating an offeror unfavorably because of a “neutral” or “unknown” past performance rating–and that the prohibition on unfavorable treatment prevents an agency from excluding an offeror from the competitive range on the basis of a neutral rating.

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Insufficient Experience Information Sinks Offeror’s Proposal

An offeror’s failure to provide the type of past performance information mandated by a solicitation led to the offeror’s elimination from consideration for a  major GSA contract.

A recent GAO bid protest decision highlights the importance of fully reading and adhering to a solicitation’s requirements–including those involving the type of past performance or experience information required.

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Agency Need Not Put Dollar Value On “Relevant” Past Performance

An agency’s solicitation was not unreasonably vague where the solicitation defined “relevant” past performance to include projects of “a similar dollar value and contract type.”

In a recent bid protest decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims rejected a protester’s assertion that the solicitation was required to identify a specific dollar value associated with relevant past performance, finding that the solicitation’s phrasing was sufficient to allow offerors to compete intelligently.

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