Vendor complaints spur changes in E-Learning RFP

OPM's Norm Enger said the agency did not attempt to avoid competition.

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Office of Personnel Management last week withdrew a solicitation for the E-Learning project following vendor complaints that the solicitation was biased toward the incumbent contractors.

OPM is revising the E-Learning request for proposals and will re-release it by the end of August, said procurement executive Ron Flom. Proposals for E-Learning, which will set up a central portal for agencies' online training, will be due by early October.

The controversy arose after several vendors alleged that OPM designed the initial RFP with specific requirements for technology used by the incumbents GeoLearning Inc. of West Des Moines, Iowa, and Plateau Systems Ltd. of Arlington, Va. And until earlier this month, OPM had specifically required all learning content management systems to integrate with Plateau's system.

Vendors also complained that the RFP's language closely mirrored text at GeoLearning's Web site. They suggested that OPM had copied the text in its learning management system requirements section from GeoLearning.

Flom said the wording was identical to a Transportation Department statement of work for a similar project in May 2002.E-Learning program officials copied the language from that document, he said.

Will Hipwell, GeoLearning's director of marketing, said his company probably had taken its language from the Transportation Department contract.

Nevertheless, the perception of impropriety was enough for OPM Director Kay Coles James to pull the solicitation back and tell the procurement office to clean it up, said Scott Hatch, OPM's communications director.

"She said 'Let's stop where we are, let's make it right, and let's reissue it,' and that is what we are going to do," Hatch said.

Norm Enger, OPM's e-gov project director, said there was no attempt to skirt competition.

"We want competition, and that is why we are going through this process," he said.

E-Learning, one of the 25 Quicksilver e-government projects, is the second high-profile OPM e-government project to come under fire from vendors and Congress. OPM was forced to reissue the solicitation for the Recruitment One-Stop project after Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, threatened to withhold funding if OPM didn't recompete the contract.

OPM last year gave Monster Government Solutions LLP of Maynard, Mass., a 10-year, $62 million contract, but rescinded the deal after the Government Accountability Office upheld a losing bidder's protest.

OPM reissued the Recruitment One-Stop RFP earlier this month.

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