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Protest decision offers lesson in how to avoid protests

Small businesses fighting for a $60 million single award contract to support a Defense Department human resources program got two bites at the apple before falling short.

The Defense Human Resources Activity contract to support its Family and Employer Programs and Policy program was awarded to Interactive Government Holdings, a service-disabled, veteran-owned company in Springfield, Va.

IGH first won the contract in April 2015, but six companies filed protests with the Government Accountability Office and GAO agreed with them. They sent the contract back after finding the evaluations unreasonable and inconsistent with the solicitations.

The Defense HR Activity followed GAO’s recommendations and made a second award to IGH. And three companies -- TENICA Associates, Dynamic Systems Technology, and TEK Source USA -- filed protests. The three also were among the six protesters who objected to the first award to IGH.

While they were successful the first time around, they fell short this time.

The big difference between the first award, which GAO rejected, and the second, which they supported, can be traced to the agency’s actions.

In the first group of protests, GAO ruled that the agency didn’t do enough to document its decision to pick IGH. Without the documentation, there is no way to consider whether it is a reasonable decision. If you can’t determine if it is reasonable, then GAO has no alternative but to declare it unreasonable.

Well, the Defense HR Activity documented its decision this time and was able to answer why they scored each company the way they did and how the decision matched the requirements described in the solicitation.

When an agency can do that, you are going to be hard pressed to convince GAO to overturn a decision. And that to me seems to be a key to bid protests and an answer for agencies trying to reduce the number of protests they are hit with: document and explain, and GAO will almost always be on your side.

I’ll take it a step further; document and explain and share that at the debriefing, and I’m sure you’ll see a drop in bid protests.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Mar 18, 2016 at 1:25 PM


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