If you’ve ever encountered the need to file a bid protest, you may remember feeling lost or overwhelmed the first time through the process. Maybe you were just confused and unsure of what would happen as you progressed from one step to the next. If you’re in the middle of a bid protest or foresee the need to enter into one in the future, the quick guide below walks you through a potential scenario of what can be expected.
Your company just received a non-award letter or you have been excluded from the competitive range. You know your team worked hard on the proposal and submitted a solid technical approach and your cost was competitive. You have some concerns about how your proposal was evaluated and whether the evaluation was done fairly.
PRE-AWARD AND POST AWARD PROTESTS
There are two types of protest grounds: pre-award and post-award. Pre-award grounds include protests against solicitations that are unduly restrictive, ambiguous, unfair, or biased. Post-award protest grounds include protests that agencies did not follow evaluation criteria; engaged in misleading discussions; or had conflicts of interest, unstated evaluation criteria, or unequal treatment of all offerors.
A bid protest is a challenge to the award or proposed award of a contract for the procurement of goods and services or a challenge to the terms of a solicitation for such a contract.
What kinds of bid protests can be filed at GAO?
Protests may be filed against procurement actions by federal government agencies.
What kinds of protests cannot be filed at GAO?
Who can file a bid protest at GAO?
Only “interested parties” may file protests. In the case of a solicitation challenge, an interested party is generally a potential bidder for the contract. In the case of a contract award challenge, an interested party is generally an actual bidder that did not win the contract. In addition, other factors, such as the bidder’s standing in the competition and the nature of the issues raised may affect whether it qualifies as an interested party..
When must a protest be filed?
In general, a protest challenging the terms of a solicitation (a pre-award protest) must be filed before the time for receipt of initial proposals. A protest challenging the award of a contract must be filed within 10 days of when a protester knows or should know of the basis of the protest (a special case applies where, under certain circumstances, the protester receives a required debriefing).
How is time calculated for filing deadlines?
“Days,” under GAO’s regulations, means “calendar days.” In the event a deadline falls on a weekend, federal holiday, or other day when GAO is closed, the deadline is extended to the next business day. Time limits are strictly enforced.
I was awarded a contract and was told that the award has been protested — what must I do, and what am I allowed to do?
Parties that have been awarded a contract are permitted to participate in a protest as an intervenor and absolutely should to “get a seat at the table”.
Step 1: Do you request a debriefing?
Agency debriefings are mandatory in some but not all procurements. Centre
will assist you in determining whether the debriefing is mandatory, in drafting questions, and in preparing for it. The debriefing may reveal agency errors and procurement violations. Not all violations warrant filing a bid protest.
Step 2: Decision Point
Deciding whether to protest, at what level, and based on what protest ground(s) is critical. In such a case, Centre Law & Consulting will quickly conduct legal research and fact analysis to advise you on whether you should file a protest, where, and what relief could be expected. We’ll give you an honest answer on how we think the GAO will rule on your facts.
Step 3: Review the Agency Report
Once you protest, a federal agency has 30 days to file its report along with additional documents relating to its source selection decision. This is an attorney’s eyes-only file. Centre Law & Consulting will review all the documentation and advise you on how we should proceed. In some cases, the report uncovers new protest grounds that were not apparent during the debriefing. Emails or other documents may also reveal agency bias, conflicts of interest, inaccurate calculations, misleading discussions, or improper evaluations.
Step 4: Corrective Action or Outcome Prediction
Once an agency realizes that it made serious mistakes, it may take corrective action. In other situations, the GAO may conduct an outcome prediction analysis. This allows all parties to get to the result quicker and cut costs. If everything else fails, the GAO will issue a decision either sustaining, denying, dismissing, or sustaining in part the protest within 100 days.
Step 5: Cost Reimbursement
Centre Law & Consulting will request cost reimbursement during the initial protest filing when appropriate. We will also document all costs associated with protest litigation to ensure that agencies reimburse the protester once the GAO recommends it.
- Re-evaluation of proposals resulting in client awards
- Corrective action including reissuing a revised solicitation to enable clients to fairly compete
- Re-solicitation of excluded clients
- Reimbursement of legal fees