Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Organizational Conflict of Interest - Facts Required to Sustain a Bid Protest, Not Mere Speculation - Part 3

For the past two days, we have been discussing a GAO (Government Accountability Office) bid protest decision involving OCI (Organizational Conflict of Interest) assertions by Accenture against IBM. If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of this series, go here to begin reading. Also, if you want to read the decision yourself, you can find the entire bid protest decision here.

Generally, OCIs fall into three broad categories (i) biased ground rules, (ii) unequal access to information and (iii) impaired objectivity. Accenture argued all three of these categories in its bid protest. Monday we discussed Accenture's arguments alleging biased ground rules. Yesterday we looked at Accenture's unequal access to information arguments (both its biased ground rules and unequal access to information relied on the same speculation. Today we will conclude this short series by trying to understand what the Accenture meant by alleging that IBM acted with impaired objectivity.

Impaired Objectivity

Impaired objectivity exists where a firm's ability to render impartial advice to the Government will be undermined by the firm's competing interests, such as a relationship to the product or service being evaluated.

Recall that IBM is the support contractor for another Army system, the FSPS (Financial Statement Production Services) contract and was awarded the GFEBS (General Fund Enterprise Business System) - the subject of this protest. One of IBM's duties under the FSPS contract is to conduct annual compliance reviews of source systems to determine whether they comply with Treasury and DoD guidance. Accenture contends that IBM could tailor its recommendations in such a way as to generate more work under the GFEBS contract, or to prevent a reduction of work.

The contracting officer considered this possibility and essentially concluded that IBM would not have the level of discretion implicit in the protester's argument, or the requisite decision-making authority to direct that changes be made. The contracting officer noted that the FSPS and the GFEBS contracts were managed by different contracting officers and program managers. IBM's recommendations would be vetted by the Government to determine whether they would result in proper implementation and the ultimate decision to require a changed to GFEBS would be made by the Government.

Once again, the GAO found that the contracting officer gave meaningful consideration to the protester's allegation and found no basis to conclude the contracting officer's determination was unreasonable.

Like the previous two OCI allegations, the GAO also denied this portion of Accenture's bid protest. In all three cases, Accenture provided no factual evidence to support its OCI claims; only conjecture.

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