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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Should we call BS on OPM’s contract cancellation?

As I read the statement yesterday from the Office of Personnel Management about why they canceled a $5 billion training contract, something about it just didn’t sound right.

I don’t doubt their reason that policy changes and budget issues created the need to rework the contract requirements, but the explanation is still pretty vague.

There is a distinct lack of communication with the bidders who spent their resources chasing the contract only to have it cancelled during the source selection process.

OPM only put out a one- sentence notice saying the contract was canceled, and the statement they gave us came only after we asked because we were writing a story about it.

As far as I know, they have given no more of an explanation to the Professional Services Council, which sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta asking for more information. It was PSC’s letter and statement that put us on the story to start with.

I think everyone understands that contracts can get canceled, but don’t the bidders deserve more?

OPM still has a need for the training and human resources services, and they’ll continue to use contractors to meet those needs, so wouldn’t a fuller explanation to industry help them prepare better solutions and better bids that can more fully address OPM’s reworked requirements?

OPM obviously doesn’t understand nor appreciate the critical business decisions companies make when picking what contracts to bid on, and which ones to take a pass on.

Information is vital to companies as they assess and manage risk and decide where to invest limited resources.

OPM, and frankly, a lot of the government agencies, just don’t get it.

They don’t understand that if you give good, complete information, your supplier base is better prepared, has a greater understanding of your needs and can bring better solutions to bear. The government, the contractors and the taxpayer alike will all benefit.

I also wonder if OPM is trying to hide some basic flaws in the contract that might have nothing to do with requirements.

It is interesting to me that, as this contract wound its way through the process, 11 companies filed pre-award protests with the Government Accountability Office because OPM had excluded them from the competitive range.

With each protest, OPM backtracked and allowed those companies back into the competition, only to later derail that competition by canceling the contract.

It makes me wonder if OPM realized that it couldn’t defend its decision to exclude those contractors.

Something is amiss with this contract; we just don’t know what, and OPM isn’t talking.

One company filed another protest asking that the cost of its protest be reimbursed by OPM and GAO agreed. I’ll get those details as soon as GAO releases that decision.

So, for those two reasons – a lack of an explanation for the cancelation, and the troubles with its competitive range decisions – I’m calling BS on OPM until they come forward with more details on why it nixed a $5 billion contract.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Feb 20, 2014 at 9:25 AM

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