Monday, December 22, 2014

Searching for Government Bid Opportunities

Every Government contractor and anyone looking to pursue Government work is familiar with the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO or FedBizOps) website where the Government publicizes its needs and solicits offers to fill those requirements. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the website for the casual user (that would be most small companies) is the difficulty in searching and finding opportunities to bid on. It does take a lot of patience and experience to gain proficiency with the FBO search engine. Right now, as we write this, there are 24,000 plus opportunities listed on the site. Finding ones in the right NAICS code, in the right location, of the right size, can be a challenge. There are companies out there that specialize in matching companies to bid opportunities.  Often times this can be cost-effective for small firms that do not have the resources to dedicate to pursuing the FBO website. For very small companies, the local PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center) provide that service for free or a nominal fee.

A recent GAO bid protest decision illustrates some of the complexities and pitfalls associated with using poor search criteria when looking for bid opportunities. In this case (Creative Mobility Group) protested the award of a contract to another company on the grounds that it was unable to find the solicitation on FBO and therefore unable to submit a quote. The reason for not finding the solicitation is because the Agency had not identified the specific state or states for the "place of performance". According to Creative Mobility Group, the Agency should have, at a minimum, selected four states as the place of performance since the work was to have been performed in each of those four states. The Agency maintained that the solicitation was easily retrievable using applicable terms in other search categories which the protestor could have reasonably availed itself of such searches and found the solicitation.

The GAO denied the protest, noting that a prospective contractor must demonstrate that it availed itself of every reasonable opportunity to obtain the solicitation documents. In this case, Creative Mobility failed to do so. As an initial finding, GAO noted that Creative Mobility was the incumbent contractor for the work and failed to inquire about a follow-on until three weeks prior to the end of the contract, by which time the opportunity to bid on the follow-on had ended. Secondly, the Agency demonstrated that the solicitation was easily obtainable from FBO using a variety of search terms such as NAICS code, the VA network to be served, "home medical equipment", or HME all would have returned the solicitation materials.

GAO ruled that the Agency's decision to not include the place of performance did not mislead the protestor because there were alternative search categories that would have allowed it to retrieve the solicitation.

You can read the entire GAO decision here.

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