WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

GAO bans firm from bid protests for second time

A small business protester has continued to make himself a pest at the Government Accountability Office and has been slapped with a second suspension from filing bid protests at GAO.

GAO has also threatened Latvian Connection with a possible lifetime ban for the company and its owner Keven Barnes. The new suspension is for two years.

GAO first banned Latvian in August 2016 after the company filed 150 protests that year. They had filed nearly 300 over the previous five years.

Since the suspension ended on Aug. 18, the company has filed 10 protests.

The volume is one thing but the protests also failed to meet the basic criteria for filing a protest, namely that the company be an “interested party” and had actually bid on the contract in question.

In this case, Latvian had filed a protest over an Air Force contract for relocatable building facilities at Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait. The company has argued it would have bid if it had known about the solicitation.

But the Air Force told GAO that there was no indication in government data bases such as the System for Award Management or SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search Databases that Latvian could do the work.

The same holds true for Latvian’s own website. The website “provided no indication that the firm was engaged in the business of constructing RLBs,” GAO wrote.

Footnotes in the decision describe other protests involving power distribution units, a street sweeper, modular buildings, and medical privacy curtains. None of the protests showed that Latvian was able to supply any of those items.

GAO said it has tried to explain the protest process to Latvian but to no avail.

“Repeatedly, Latvian Connection files a protest but fails to establish that it can meet the definition of an interested party,” GAO wrote.

It might be easy to make fun of Latvian and Barnes, but one of his complaints is that when the federal government buys things overseas it is not complying with small business regulations.

And this is a real issue.

In 2013, the Small Business Administration amended its regulations to say that small business set-aside regulations need to be met no matter where the work takes place.

But to date, the change in the regulations don’t appear to be fully implemented. The Defense Acquisition Regulations Council is still working on a final rule to implement the SBA requirement.

According to the council’s list of open FAR cases, the small business team at the council is working on a rule. Their deadline has been extended to Dec. 6 when they will report back to the chair. But that doesn’t mean a rule will be finished by then.

So others besides Latvian and Barnes recognize this as an issue but GAO doesn’t write FAR regulations. They interpret them.

Barnes needs to find another venue and cut the bluster because right now the legitimate part of his message is lost.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 30, 2017 at 2:04 PM

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