By: Michael H. Payne

Government contractors frequently use incorrect terminology to describe a solicitation. For example, clients often call me and ask why they were not awarded a contract even though they had submitted the lowest bid. The first thing that I ask is whether the solicitation was a Request for Proposals ("RFP"), or an

By: Michael H. Payne

There is an old saying that “you win some, and you lose some.” Well, if you are a construction contractor who competes in the world of Multiple Award Task Order Contracting (“MATOC”), you usually lose. Under sealed bidding, which dominated the procurement of federal construction for many years, a contractor who

By: Michael H. Payne

In a negotiated procurement, where a contractor submits a proposal in response to an RFP (Request for Proposals), FAR 15.506(a)(1) states that “An offeror, upon its written request received by the agency within 3 days after the date on which that offeror has received notification of contract award in accordance with

A recent GAO decision highlights the need for offerors to fully understand a Request for Proposals (RFP) and to pay close attention to the details when preparing a proposal in response to an RFP.  In C. Martin Company, Inc., the agency rejected the protestor’s proposal, determining that it was technically unacceptable.  The agency discovered that the offeror had referenced outdated regulations, standards, and procedures.  Some of the references were to processes and standards that had been obsolete for at least three years.  It became evident that the offeror had incorporated parts of a prior RFP submission years before on a similar project.

The agency’s technical review team concluded that the proposal was deficient and that the offeror did not have a clear understanding of the RFP’s requirements.  The offeror was not given an opportunity to cure the deficiencies. After the offeror learned of the basis of its rejection during a debriefing, it filed a protest contending that the deficiencies in its proposal were minor and that it should have been given the opportunity to correct its proposal. Its main argument was that its proposal could easily have been corrected. 

The GAO, in denying the protest, stated that neither the ease of the corrective effort nor the “minor” nature of the deficiencies were determinative of whether the proposal should be accepted or rejected. Instead, the GAO held that the need for numerous revisions “evidenced an inherent lack of understanding or awareness of the current RFP’s requirements.”    The GAO succinctly stated in upholding the agency’s rejection of the proposal: “Offerors are responsible for submitting an adequately written proposal, and run the risk that their proposals will be evaluated unfavorably where they fail to do so.” Continue Reading It is Dangerous to Take Shortcuts When Preparing Your Proposal

“Discussions” in a negotiated procurement between the government and an offeror are the exception, not the norm, as those of you who have submitted a response to a Request for Proposals know.  Too often the government awards a contract on the basis of the initial proposal, without any discussions or negotiations with the offerors.  The reason that the government refrains from formally opening up negotiations is that if discussions occur between the government and one offeror, then the government must hold discussions with all of the offerors in the competitive range.  (FAR 15.306(d)(1).  That can be time consuming.  (It can be argued that the term “Procurement by Negotiation,” as explained in FAR, Part 15, anticipates that discussions and negotiations will actually occur). 

            Of course, not all communications between the government and an offeror constitute “discussions.”   As the Government Accountability Office stated in a recent case, Overlook Systems Technologies, Inc., Nov 28, 2006, “the acid test is whether an offeror has been afforded an opportunity to revise or modify its proposal.” In Overlook, the contracting officer contacted the successful offeror regarding a perceived organizational conflict of interest because Overlook planned to use a subcontractor that had provided a system to the government that Overlook would now “troubleshoot.”  The GAO determined that the contracting officer’s communications with Overlook were similar to the sort of inquiries the government frequently makes to perform a responsibility determination.  The GAO relied heavily on the fact that the government was required to make such a responsibility determination, citing prior GAO decisions that have held that responsibility inquiries are not “discussions.”

Continue Reading RFP – There Can Be Communications Without "Discussions"