GSA blames poor wording for STARS contract snafu

Email never meant to inform contract award winners

The General Services Administration is blaming "ambigous" language in an email to bidders on its $10 billion 8(a) contract for giving the mistake impression that it had made contract awards.

The email was intended to give notice that GSA was extending the selection process for the Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services (STARS) II governmentwide acquisition contract, according to a statement made June 23 by Mary Davie, assistant Federal Acquisition Service commissioner for integrated technology service at GSA.

Davie said the agency intends to award its major governmentwide small-business IT contract by the end of July, although it may have caused some confusion about awards.

GSA asked for a monthlong extension to try to get better prices from the companies bidding on its five-year, $10 billion contract. But because of the language issues some companies believe they had a spot on the IT GWAC and then lost it, Davie said.

A first correspondence, sent June 1, intended to say that officials, who are reviewing bids for STARS II, were continuing their review of submissions. The second letter, sent June 21, gave companies an opportunity for written discussions and called for a final proposal and pricing revision, Davie wrote.

“The second letter did specifically rescind a portion of earlier communications, which appeared to indicate that offerors were considered to be ‘apparently successful.’ This phrasing was ambiguous and should not have been used in these communications,” Davie said.

That second e-mail message, sent to companies, states: “Any part of previous communications from GSA stating or implying that offerors were deemed apparently successful is hereby rescinded.”

GSA was giving the small businesses time to re-examine the prices they offered in their initial bid proposals and adjust the pricing to “amplify its potential to be favorably considered,” the second message also states. Officials included the median price and prices in the 25th percentile as a guide for companies to make their revisions.

GSA had to get the extension to get better prices, Davie said.

“It would not have been possible to ask for more competitive pricing without going back to offerors to ask for an extension, provide them with an opportunity for additional discussions, and then request a final proposal revision,” Davie said.

She added that GSA’s GWAC program office is responding to contractors’ questions as part of the written discussions.

Although GSA’s follow-up message may be awkward, Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, said it’s better than being criticized throughout the life of the contract because of high prices.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader Comments

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 Nate Conroy

What was the actual "ambiguous" language from the June 1 email? It's a bit hard to follow the story without seeing the direct quote.

Mon, Jun 27, 2011

And this is news??? The government lives and breathes ambiguity...

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 Jackson

Ms. Davie should resign--or be canned. The mistake showed incompetence. The reaction by GSA showed evasiveness and bad ethics. We should have more expert public servants. People are standing in line to serve. Ms. Davie can find a new position with a vendor in the usual way. Taxpayers are entitled to both good executive management performance and fair prices. Not one or the other, Mr. Allen.

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