The government contracting industry is extremely competitive, which is not a surprise given the $500+ billion dollars in federal procurement spending up for grabs each year. This competition certainly gives government contractors ample incentive to seek out any useful information that may provide even a small advantage in their procurement activities. Bid protest decisions can be one such source of useful information, often providing valuable insight into the procurement process.
One bid protest decision may focus on a contractor's mistakes which led to its proposal being rejected from competition, serving as a how-to-guide of sorts showing contractors what not to do. Another bid protest decision may instead highlight errors made by the agency, giving contractors a blueprint of what agency actions/inactions to look out for in their own procurements that may lead to sustainable protests. Whatever the issue, knowledgeable contractors can utilize this information to avoid missteps and properly protect their interests in the potentially lucrative government contracting space.
Another useful aspect of bid protest decisions is that some decisions, while pointing out avoidable defects in proposals, can also shine a light on obscure rules and regulations which may open up contracting avenues not otherwise considered. GAO released a bid protest decision last week which may provide an example of this notion.
Océ Government Services, Inc. involved a GSA Regulation (GSAR), which allows companies without GSA schedule contracts to submit an offer to a procuring agency on behalf of a company that holds a GSA schedule contract. GSAR clauses 552.216-73 and 552.232-82 allow a GSA schedule contract holder to authorize a separate company to act as a "participating dealer" under their schedule contract. As long as the participating dealer complies with the applicable provisions of the GSAR, it can submit, receive and accept payment for orders under the schedule holder’s contract.
The key, however, is that the participating dealer must follow the applicable regulations. The foremost of which requires the participating dealer to submit offers on behalf of, or in the name of, the actual schedule holder. Participating dealers are not permitted to submit offers in their own name.
In this case, while Océ referenced the schedule holder and the schedule contract, it did not make it clear that the proposal was being submitted in the name of a schedule holder. Rather, the proposal was submitted on Océ letterhead and provided Océ's address, tax ID number, DUNS number, and cage code. The proposal was also signed by an officer of Océ, and named Océ as the offeror in both the technical and price proposals.
The Agency rejected Océ's proposal, eliminating Océ from the competition, which led to the protest. GAO agreed with the agency that Océ failed to properly identify itself as a participating dealer that was submitting a proposal in the name of a schedule contract holder. As a result, GAO determined that Océ's proposal was properly rejected and dismissed the protest.
It is paramount that a contractor submits an adequately written proposal including all necessary information in accordance with the solicitation and federal regulations. This bid protest decision provides a good example of the potential consequences for failure to do so. A slight adjustment in Océ's proposal— providing more information on the schedule holder and indicating the offer was submitted in its name—likely would have kept Océ's proposal from being excluded from the competition. This simple mistake cost Océ a chance of receiving an award.
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