This is the second time in 12 months that protestors unsuccessfully raised conflict-of-interest allegations against Booz Allen over a large Veterans Affairs win.
The Government Accountability Office’s decision on Tuesday to deny a pair of protests has cleared the way for Booz Allen Hamilton to continue its role supporting the Veterans Affairs’ electronic health record modernization project.
In September 2022, Booz Allen won the $860 million task order that extends its work for another five years as program manager for the VA’s massive program to implement Cerner's electronic health record. The company first won that role in 2017 through a $750 million task order awarded in 2017.
The VA competed both orders through its Transformation Twenty-One Technology Next Generation vehicle known as T4NG.
Shortly after the recompete award, Cognosante and Pro Sphere Tek filed protests challenging the evaluation and claiming that Booz Allen had an organizational conflict-of-interest. Those two companies were the other bidders for the recompete, Federal Procurement Data System records indicate.
This is the second VA task order in the past 12 months where protestors made OCI allegations against Booz Allen.
GAO's denial of the Cognosante and Pro Sphere protest is not public yet.
But we have learned that they argued it was improper for Booz Allen to hold the program management office contract. Cognosante and Pro Sphere claimed Booz Allen would be in position to steer work to another VA task order held by its subsidiary Liberty IT Solutions, also through the T4NG vehicle.
Booz Allen completed the acquisition of Liberty IT in June 2021. Liberty IT won that $735 million task order in September 2021, then also faced OCI allegations because Booz Allen held the program management contract.
Liberty's task order with the VA involves application development services support known DevSecOps that includes development of products, operations support and security compliance.
Halfaker and Associates was the protestor raising the OCI concerns against Liberty IT. Science Applications International Corp. acquired Halfaker in July 2021.
In an unsuccessful protest, Halfaker argued that Liberty IT had an “impaired objectivity” OCI and raised questions over the ability to work objectively. Halfaker claimed the performance would potentially impact the other work done by Booz Allen.
But in its January 2022 ruling against Halfaker, GAO found no OCI issues because the two task orders are operated by separate parts of the VA.
The VA's office of IT manages the work being performed by Liberty IT, while Booz Allen’s services are to the office of EHR modernization.
Liberty IT’s work involves legacy systems and Booz Allen is focused on modernization, GAO said.
In their protest, Cognosante and Pro Sphere basically resurrected the OCI concerns against Booz Allen.
Given that GAO has denied the protest, it is safe to assume the watchdog agency again agreed with the VA that no OCI issues existed.
We will revisit this in more detail when GAO releases a redacted version of its ruling, which could take several weeks.
Also worth noting: this is the finish line for protests involving this task order.
Cognosante and Halfaker cannot take their complaints to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which does not not have jurisdiction over task order competitions. Only GAO hears task order protests.