Offerors are responsible for submitting proposals, and any modifications or revisions, so as to reach the Government office designated in the solicitation by the time specified in the solicitation. The Government is usually consistent and quite firm in rejecting late bids. While application of the late proposal rules may sometimes seem harsh, the rules are aimed at ensuring equal treatment of all offerors, and promoting confidence in the competitive system, thereby protecting the integrity of the procurement process. The rationale underlying strict application of the late proposal rules is to prevent even the slightest possibility of any offeror gaining an unfair competitive advantage by being able to make material changes in its offer after the cutoff date and time.
When the solicitation does not specify a specific time, FAR 52.215-1(c)(3) specifies that the time for receipt is 4:30 p.m. local time for the designated Government office on the date that proposal or revision is due.
In a recent bid protest, a losing bidder appealed the Government's award to a competing offeror whose bid was received after 4:30 p.m. but before the office closed for the day at 5:00 p.m.. The solicitation did not specify a certain time, only that offers be received by close of business. Since a specific time was not specified in the solicitation, the provisions of FAR 52.215-1(c)(3) applied - 4:30 p.m. The bid protest was sustained.
In this case, the contracting officer had sent an e-mail to the eventual winning bidder authorizing the firm to submit up to 5:00 p.m. GAO ruled that the contracting officer's e-mail, which was sent only to one offeror, cannot be considered an amendment to the solicitation's due date and the offeror acted unreasonably when it relied on the informal advice of a contracting officer, rather than following the solicitation's instructions. The contracting office lacked the authority to accept the late proposal. Offerors who rely on such informal advice do so at their own risk.