WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Too many protests? Not really

The Government Accountability Office’s annual protest report to Congress shows the number of protests filed in fiscal year 2018 holding steady compared to the past four years.

Here is a quick rundown of total cases filed over in fiscal years 2014 through 2018:

  • 2018: 2,607
  • 2017: 2,596
  • 2016: 2,734
  • 2015: 2,639
  • 2014: 2,561

You could argue that fiscal 2016 was the peak for bid protests. But the percentage of awards that are protested is rather insignificant you put any of those numbers above in the context of the total number of contracts awarded by government agencies each year.

A Rand Corp. study released earlier this year only looked at DOD contracts, and the number of protests involving defense awards was just below 2 percent in fiscal 2017.

And a look at the number of protests that go through full GAO reviews shows the percentage shrinking further.

In fiscal 2018, 622 protests went to decisions and only 92 were sustained, which means that GAO ruled in favor of the protester.

So if your odds are pretty bleak of winning a protest, why protest? The answer to that is the other number in GAO’s report, something they call the effectiveness rate.

The effectiveness rate covers when a protesting company gets some sort of relief from the agency. This is almost always a corrective action, where the agency realizes a mistake has been made. In other words, the agency knows GAO will likely rule in favor of the protester.

Corrective actions see the agency pull back the award to fix it. It usually means they’ll re-evaluate proposals or the source selection decision.

In fiscal 2018, 44 percent of bid protests resulted in some sort of relief for the protester. This doesn’t mean that they ultimately won the contract. But they at least got the agency to take the complaint seriously.

GAO's annual report also includes the most common grounds for sustained protests:

  • Unreasonable technical evaluation
  • Unreasonable cost or price evaluation
  • Flawed selection decision

I know people complain about protests and say there are too many of them.

But I think that is mostly when your own contract gets protested, because these numbers don’t indicate a problem to me.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 29, 2018 at 9:47 AM

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