If you work with contracts, chances are you’re familiar with bids and bid protests. When a company believes it has unfairly lost a contract award due to bias, misinformation or mistake, it can submit a protest to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
No agency wants to lose in a protest, especially where large bids are involved—too much time, money and resources go into the process. But this is precisely why companies with a profitable bid are more likely to challenge unfavorable results, and why GAO handles so many protests on a daily basis.
Most protests are dismissed or rejected. Whenever a protest is sustained, it provides a great opportunity for an agency to examine shortfalls in its contracts management process.
Recently, a winning protest caught our attention.
NavQSys, LLC v. Department of the Army, Army Materiel Command (AMC)
In March, a bidding war between two contractors broke out over a contract award by AMC. After awarding the contract to NavQSys, the competing contractor, Semper Valens Solutions, Inc., protested on the grounds that NavQSys didn’t have the proper security clearance when it submitted its proposal.
AMC corrected its decision, instead awarding the contract to Semper Valens. NavQSys then counter-protested, arguing that AMC’s “intended corrective action [was] unreasonable and inadequately documented” (gao.gov).
Upon further inspection, GAO found that AMC’s conclusions were “inconsistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, undocumented, or not reasonably based” (gao.gov). It concluded that AMC had not properly tracked documents and evaluation materials relevant to AMC’s corrective decision.
Because AMC didn’t properly document its evaluation process, GAO could not find that the agency had a reasonable basis for its conclusions. GAO pointed out that whether or not NavQSys erred was irrelevant: without the right documentation, AMC couldn’t make that claim.
The Lesson – “A.R.D.”
AINS Contracts Expert Hodford Brown says that AMC’s mistake is one which can be easily solved with the right filing system.
“This story shows the importance of a having a strong file,” Brown says. “You always want to have a system that is ‘auditable, repeatable, and dependable.’”
The problem with AMC’s bid and filing process was that it was not A.R.D.: auditable, repeatable or defendable. Our system, on the other hand, checks all three marks. eCase Contracts is a cradle-to-grave filing system that tracks all records and processes, so neither contract party has to worry about a dispute.
“You want to have all records on hand,” says Brown. Fortunately, eCase does.