“Did ya ever notice” that – sometimes – the story just writes itself. On May 10, 2012, the Government Accountability Office released correspondence with the following title:Continue Reading...
By: Townsend Bourne
In a bid protest decision regarding the propriety of agency corrective action, GAO recently carved out a new exception to its general rule that those who do not participate in a protest that engenders corrective action are not interested parties to challenge the corrective action. In North Wind, Inc.; Earth Resources Technology, Inc., B-404880.4 et al., 2011 CPD ¶ 246 (Comp. Gen. Nov. 4, 2011), North Wind, Inc. (“North Wind”) protested NASA’s initial award of a contract to Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc. (“Navarro”) and subsequently raised additional challenges to the award in a supplemental protest that followed receipt of documents from the Agency. In response to North Wind’s supplemental protest, NASA decided to take corrective action. Earth Resources Technology, Inc. (“ERT”), another disappointed offeror in the competition, did not initially file its own protest challenging the award to Navarro.
By Marko W. Kipa
The saga began with the passage of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. While the Act contained a general prohibition barring bid protests of task and delivery order awards (excluding challenges to scope, period, or maximum value), it granted the GAO exclusive jurisdiction over bid protests of civilian and defense agency task and delivery order awards valued at over $10 million. The Act also included a sunset date – May 27, 2011. The reach of the Act’s sunset provision would prove to be critical in shaping the GAO’s and the Court of Federal Claims’ jurisdiction over bid protests of civilian agency task and delivery order awards.
The GAO Holds It Possesses Jurisdiction Over Bid Protests of Civilian Agency Task and Delivery Order Awards
By Marko W. Kipa
Many believed that the Government Accountability Office’s (“GAO’s”) jurisdiction over bid protests of civilian agency task and delivery order awards valued at over $10 million expired on May 27, 2011. This belief was based on the fact that certain broadened jurisdiction over civilian agency task and delivery order protests granted by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (“2008 Act”) expired on that date. With the expiration of the broadened jurisdictional grant found in the 2008 Act, many thus contended that a contractor would not be able to protest a civilian agency task or delivery order award at the GAO unless the protest alleged that the order exceeded the scope, period or maximum value of the underlying contract. Protests of Department of Defense task and delivery order awards valued at over $10 million were not similarly affected because Congress extended the GAO’s exclusive, broadened jurisdiction over these protests through the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.
By Anne Perry and Kerry O’Neill
In an April 6, 2011 decision, the GAO overturned the award of a $24.6 million task order to Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. (“BAH”), sustaining the protest of the incumbent Solers, Inc. (“Solers”). This procurement has a long and storied protest history. The Defense Information Systems Agency (“DISA”) originally awarded the contract to Solers in September 2010. BAH filed a protest, in response to which DISA took corrective action. After the reopening of discussions and evaluation of offerors revised proposals, the Agency awarded the contract to BAH, despite Solers’ technical superiority, based on BAH’s lower price and superior past performance. This time Solers protested.
By Marko W. Kipa
Over the past three years, government contractors have been able to pursue bid protests at the Government Accountability Office (the “GAO”) challenging awards of defense and civilian task and delivery orders valued at over $10 million. This expanded jurisdiction, however, is set to expire on May 27, 2011. Congress appeared to have addressed the issue in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (the “Act”) by including a provision extending the GAO’s expanded jurisdiction until September 30, 2016, but, for whatever reason, the Act captured only defense task and delivery order awards. This omission not only was strange, but it also seemed to run counter to the spirit of the original grant of task/delivery order jurisdiction. We analyzed the Act’s legislative history here and concluded that it did not provide a basis for only partially extending the GAO’s expanded jurisdiction. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. House of Representatives (the “House”) and the U.S. Senate (the “Senate”) introduced bills targeted at extending the GAO’s jurisdiction over civilian task and delivery order bid protests. See H.R. 899; see also S. 498.
By Marko W. Kipa
With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (the “2008 Act”), Congress expanded the GAO’s jurisdiction to include bid protests in connection with civilian and defense contract task and delivery orders valued at over $10 million. See Section 843 of the 2008 Act, Pub. L. No. 110-181. Congress also included a sunset provision in the 2008 Act that limited that grant of expanded jurisdiction to 3 years – i.e., until May 27, 2011. See id. We previously discussed Section 843 of the 2008 Act and its implications here, here, and here.
While Vice President Biden was busy touting Summer 2010 as the “Summer of Recovery” and the economic effects of the February 2009 Stimulus Act (a.k.a. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Recovery Act, ARRA, the Stimulus Act, etc.), the gears of the regulatory process ground steadily onward. Throughout the summer, the White House Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) issued updated policy guidance implementing the ARRA requirements, and the rule-makers in the FAR Councils remained hard at work updating and (hopefully) finalizing the regulations implementing the finer details of the Recovery Act. Despite the fact that the ARRA funding officially expired on September 30, 2010 (meaning that any unobligated ARRA funds will now revert to the federal treasury to be saved or spent another day), the Government spent its summer fine-tuning the regulations. As the sun begins to set on the Recovery Act, and as the Summer of Recovery fades into the past, we summarize here some of the key features of the final Recovery Act rules promulgated over the last few months.
By Marko W. Kipa
After an unsuccessful bid protest, many contractors assume that their chance at getting a piece of the action has passed. They assume that they have exhausted their remedies and that all of the spoils inevitably will go to the victor. They let bygones be bygones and move-on to the next capture opportunity and ignore their competitor’s performance under the awarded contract.
By Keith R. Szeliga, Marko W. Kipa and Jessica M. Madon
The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) is authorized to hear pre-award and post-award bid protest cases. While protests often focus on post-award challenges to an agency’s evaluation, there are many meritorious protest grounds that must be raised, if at all, prior to the closing date for receipt for proposals.
By Anne B. Perry and John S. Tobey
On March 15, 2010, the GAO determined that two Task Order Request for Proposals ("TORPs") to procure mentoring, training, and logistics support for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior and Afghan National Police were outside of the scope of a multiple-award indefinite delivery indefinite-quantity ('ID/IQ") contract for counter-narcoterrorism support services. DynCorp International LLC, B-402349.
GAO's Bid Protest Annual Report to the Congress for Fiscal Year 2009 - Another Busy Year for GAO, Another Good Year for Protestors
On January 8, 2010, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) submitted its Bid Protest Annual Report to the Congress for Fiscal Year 2009. Overall, the Report reflects that FY 2009 was a busier year for GAO, and a more successful year for protestors, than FY 2008.
The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) is a stickler when it comes to the timing of bid protests. One misstep – even if that misstep causes you to miss a deadline by only seconds – and you could find yourself out on the proverbial curb. GAO has a saying when it comes to the timing of its bid protests: “Late is late.” And GAO means it.
Contractors engaged in procurements under the Foreign Military Sales ("FMS") program can breathe a little easier after a Government Accountability Office ("GAO") ruling on November 5, 2009, in which the GAO denied the U.S. Army Material Command's ("Army's") assertion that a contractor is not entitled to reimbursement for its protest costs associated with an FMS procurement protest. In Alsalam Aircraft Company, B-401298.3, the GAO found that FMS trust funds have the "character of appropriated funds" and that the Arms Export Control Act, which authorizes the FMS program, allows for use of appropriated funds in an FMS procurement and provides for recovery of protest costs from the FMS customer.
Not so long ago, we called your attention to a troubling trend in the natural order of Government contracting. First, we recounted how DCAA has initiated itself into the dark art of intimidation. Then we described how a contracting officer’s mere disagreement with the DCAA could result in an IG referral for a poor CO who comes out on the other side of a DCAA recommendation. And when last we resumed our chronicle, we recalled that a call for an end to these frontal assaults on CO independence was issued – not only by us in the last several months – but by an ABA Ad Hoc Committee some 22 years ago.
In an attempt to promote "protection" and "provide transparency," the FAR Councils recently issued a final rule formally mandating Government Accountability Office ("GAO") auditor access to interview contractor personnel during an audit of the contractor's records. This final rule published on October 14, 2009 adopted, without change, an interim rule issued March 31, 2009, implementing section 871 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for 2009 ("Section 871"), as codified at 41 U.S.C. 254d(c)(1) and 10 U.S.C. 2313(c)(1)." The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the "Recovery Act") provides a similar interview right, but the Recovery Act provision extends that right to agency inspector generals. Congress limited Section 871 interview rights to the GAO.
GAO Rejects "Aggregate" Valuation Method for Determining Qualification Under the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act
In Caddell Constr. Co., Inc., B-401596, et al, Sept. 21, 2009, the GAO sustained a protest against the pre-qualification of a vendor on the grounds that the Department of State’s (DOS) determination that the vendor satisfied the qualification requirements of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 (Security Act) was unreasonable. The GAO recommended that the DOS withdraw the pre-qualification, concluding that the vendor did not have the necessary experience required by the Security Act. This recommendation rejected the DOS’s method of aggregating dollar values to determine an offeror’s qualification under the statute.
Recently, contractors have begun receiving formal requests for information from the Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”). The purported purpose of these requests is to “[o]btain an understanding of the management control environment” of major government contractors. In pursuit of this goal, DCAA has crafted a letter that demands, among other things, the following:
- A list of all ethics training, copies of agendas, and attendee lists
- Copies of the company’s written Codes of Conduct, copies of the policies dealing with communications of the Code, and a list of employees who have acknowledged receiving the Code over the past 12 months
- A list of all violations of the Code over the past 12 months
- All “noncompliances” reported through the contractor’s internal control system (such as a hotline) within the past 12 months
- A “company-wide list of any current open investigations”
The Administration has conceded that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”) has not worked as planned. With unemployment numbers continuing to climb, the Administration now acknowledges it “misread the economy.” But from the beginning not everyone believed ARRA would achieve the desired stimulative effect. After all, $787 billion cannot be disbursed without some complication.
New Recovery Act Rules Implement Provisions Relating To Government Audit Access, Whistleblower Protections, And Buy American Requirements; Much Confusion Remains
On March 31, 2009, the FAR Councils issued several new interim rules (effective March 31, 2009) implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) (also known as ARRA, The Recovery Act, or the Stimulus Act). See Federal Acquisition Circular (FAC) 2005-32, published at 74 Federal Register 14621-14652. The FAC issued new interim rules on a number of areas required under the Stimulus Act, including:
- Reporting Requirements for Recipients of Recovery Funds (see 74 Federal Register 14639)
- Publicizing Contract Actions (see 74 Federal Register 14636)
- GAO and IG Access to Company Employees (see 74 Federal Register 14646)
- Whistleblower Protections (see 74 Federal Register 14633)
- Buy American Requirements for Construction Materials (see 74 Federal Register 14623)
This blog focuses on the final three sets of rules – those relating to Auditor access; Whistleblower protections; and Buy American requirements. The first set of rules is discussed separately here.
The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) denies more than three quarters of all bid protests decided on the merits. Certain categories of protests, however, tend to be more successful than others.
Three of our Government Contracts lawyers – Keith Szeliga, Marko Kipa, and Daniel Marcinak – recently published an article that assists protestors in identifying such allegations. Among other things, the article analyzes the most common categories of successful bid protest grounds and describes the circumstances under which each ground is likely to prevail. With permission of Briefing Papers, the article is reproduced in full in this issue of our blog.
Click here to view a PDF copy of the article.
Keith R. Szeliga
Marko W. Kipa
Daniel J. Marcinak
New DCAA Guidelines Severely Restrict Auditor Authority To Exercise Judgment In Audit Of Internal Controls
On December 19, 2008 DCAA issued new guidance for audit of and reporting on internal controls that -- in two short pages of sometimes cryptic text -- (a) redefines the agency's approach to the critical concepts of "significant deficiency" and "material weakness" in internal controls and (b) establishes new criteria for auditor reports of deficiencies in large contractor internal control systems, and recommendations as to the adequacy of the contractor systems, including recommendations that the Contracting Officer pursue suspension of progress payments on reimbursement of costs.Continue Reading...
In its 2008 report on the Government’s financial consolidated statements released on December 15, the Government Accountability Office criticized “serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense, the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.” GAO further reported that the Government did not comply “with significant laws and regulations.” Ironically, this report issued just days after the Government forced all federal contractors to implement their own internal control systems under penalty of suspension or debarment.Continue Reading...
Determining whether to challenge the award of a contract to a competitor can be a daunting decision for a federal government contractor. This article seeks to make that decision more manageable by providing an overview of the bid protest process and by suggesting several factors a contractor should consider in determining whether to protest an award.[i]
[i] For a more detailed discussion of the GAO bid protest process, see U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2006). Bid Protests at GAO: A Descriptive Guide. (Publication No. GAO-06-797SP).
GAO will soon issue final procedural rules for its newly-formed Contract Appeals Board, a body established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 to hear appeals from decisions of contracting officers relating to contracts with an agency in the legislative branch. On June 26, 2008, GAO published 25 pages of procedural rules as an interim agency rule subject to comment. The comment period closed August 25.Continue Reading...