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By Nick Wakeman

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Inside the 18F Agile BPA bid protests

The General Services Administration 18F consulting group is facing at least four bid protests involving its contract for Agile development services.

The 18F group was stood up a year ago to serve as a catalyst for performing quick but high impact projects for the government. While it needs to adhere to government procurement rules, it has been seen as a new way of doing business for the government.

With the protests, which have been filed at the Government Accountability Office, the Court of Federal Claims and at GSA itself, 18F is learning that while it is different, it’s not immune to the vagaries of the federal market.

InfoZen Inc. and TCG Inc. filed protests at GAO. Octo Consulting has filed at the Court of Federal Claims. A GSA spokesman said two companies have filed protests with its agency protest official. They are not disclosing the name of the protesters at GSA.

TCG filed its protest on Sept. 8 but it was dismissed by GAO on Sept. 22 because of the pending case at the Court of Federal Claims. I expect that InfoZen’s protest also will be dismissed unless they make an argument that the issues in the Octo case don’t apply to them.

The Court of Federal Claims case trumps GAO in a way because GAO’s decisions are not binding on agencies, while the court's is.

I’m not sure what happens with the GSA-based protests.

The protest filings at GSA and GAO are not publicly available, but Octo’s complaint at the Court of Federal Claims is a public record.

Octo’s main arguments center on pricing and how the bids were evaluated. The company also claims that four of the winning bidders violated word-count requirements that Octo argues should have disqualified them from the competition.

The pricing argument is interesting because as part of its debriefing, Octo gained access to the pricing bid by all 16 winning companies. The companies submitted bids for a sample task order described in the solicitation.

The prices range from a high of $49,616 from Booz Allen Hamilton to a low of $16,536 from TrueTandeum. Nine companies bid a price over $30,000; six bid more than $20,000, and only one bid less than $20,000.

All of the bidders had exceptional ratings for the technical side of their proposals. Octo also had an exceptional rating.

Because the technical scores were all the same, picking the winners came down to price, and here is where Octo has a problem.

“Left unexplained is just how the agency contracting officer was with these widely ranging prices able to assess the price performance as between competing quotes,” the company writes in its complaint. The company says there either was no price assessment or if one was conducted it was “irrational, arbitrary, or capricious.”

Octo’s price is not disclosed in the filing, but the company does say that it was within $2,000 of Booz Allen’s $49,616 bid.

Another more technical point that Octo argues is that three of the winning companies – Acumen Solutions, Booz Allen Hamilton and PricewaterhouseCoopers -- exceeded the word limit asked for in the solicitation. Those bidders should have been disqualified.

One winning bidder, DSoft Technology company, also failed to keep it technical proposal available to the public as the solicitation required, Octo claims. The proposals for the winners are available through the GitHub website. See the individual company links below.

For now, work under the BPA, which Octo says has a $24 million value, cannot go forward. The Court of Federal Claims has set a schedule of deadlines for filings and responses through October and November. A deadline for a decision is Dec. 17.

Since the other protesters have access to the same information Octo has, I would expect their objections to the awards to be similar.

As a reminder, here are the winning bidders and links to their proposals:

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 24, 2015 at 1:00 PM


Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 10, 2015 Jean-Philippe HOLOGNE Brussels

Fraud!!!

Fri, Sep 25, 2015

Looks like the agile acquisition process run by 18F isn't resulting in agile results ... so surprising. The institution has spoken.

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