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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

4 rounds of protests equal government dysfunction

Sometimes, I have a gut reaction when I read a bid protest decision. I read it and ask myself, how much more screwed up can our procurement system be?

An agency makes an award after award after award. Each round is followed by protests and corrective actions until the agency decides to see the last protest through to the end and allows the Government Accountability Office to go through its process and render a decision.

Meanwhile, years can go by between the first award and when a final decision is rendered.

That’s how the system works, but, boy, there seems to be a lot of collateral damage along the way.

The most recent example of this involves a small company called Milvets Systems Technology that won a task order under the GSA Alliant Small Business contract. The Agriculture Department was looking for infrastructure operations and support for the Food and Nutrition Service.

Milvets won the contract in September 2013. But two companies filed protests and the agency took a corrective action and pulled the award back from Milvets.

In February 2014, Milvets again won the work, but again there were protests that triggered another corrective action.

In November 2014, (round three), DKW Communications won the contract, and this time, Milvets filed a protest (who could blame them), and again Agriculture issued a corrective action and pulled the award back from DKW.

For round four, the agency amended the solicitation and asked for revised quotations. By now, it is February 2015.

In the fall, Agriculture awarded a third company, Metrica Team Venture, the contract, and in November 2015, Milvets again filed a protest.

This time, however, Agriculture didn’t issue a corrective action and stood by its pick of Metrica and the bid protest process at GAO moved forward. In late January, GAO ruled with Agriculture and denied Milvets protest. The decision was released this week.

I won’t go through the details of the decision, but in a nut shell, Agriculture made one major change between round three and round four. It brought in a new technical evaluation panel and source selection authority.

GAO ruled that the decisions the new evaluators and SSA made were reasonable and supported by the record.

I don’t have a problem with GAO’s decision, but it’s the long, twisted path that Agriculture took to get there, and the wasted resources spent by the bidders and the government through four rounds of bidding to end up where they did.

I feel for Milvets. You win a contract twice only to have it taken away because of errors the government agency made. How frustrating must that be?

I can’t help but wonder why did it take so many attempts until Agriculture got it right?

Hopefully, they captured some lessons learned, but after four attempts, I’m not going to hold my breath.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Feb 23, 2016 at 9:26 AM

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