Tuesday, February 17, 2015

GAO Bid Protest Statistics - 2014

GAO's latest annual report on bid protest statistics shows a five percent increase in the number of bid protests filed during fiscal year 2014 over fiscal year 2013 (click here to read that report). The report itself does not provide any insights into why the number of bid protests is increasing - it just presents the facts. We hadn't given it much thought either - thinking it is simply a reflection of more desperation by contractors chasing an ever-dwindling procurement budget. That could be part of the reason but a recent article in the Washington Business Journal addresses another reason why the number of bid protests are increasing:
... a panel of procurement experts pointed to a couple other reasons: more missteps by a more inexperienced government acquisition workforce,and the disintegration of the "protest stigma" that once existed in the industry.
The article attributes the dwindling federal acquisition workforce which has led to hiring contracting officers with less experience. We see anecdotal evidence of that often - not only more inexperience contracting officers but also overworked contracting officers.

Concerning the stigma that once accompanied protestors, the article points out that agencies rarely run their own contract competitions. Contracts are awarded by acquisition ships, not the actual agencies doing the buying. "So, if you protest, you're not suing the customer - you're suing the contracting organization". Given the high stakes, companies are more willing to call out a contracting officer.

Getting back to the annual report, the GAO sustained 13 percent of closed cases. The most prevalent reasons for sustaining the protests during fiscal year 2014 were:

  1. failure to follow the evaluation criteria
  2. flawed selection decision
  3. unreasonable technical evaluation, and
  4. unequal treatment.

Many protests filed with the GAO do not reach a decision on the merits because agencies voluntarily take corrective action in response to the protest rather than defend the protest on the merits. Agencies need not and do not report any of the myriad reasons they decide to take voluntary corrective action. But it would not be too hard to guess that there were indefensible flaws in the Government's processes.

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