Friday, October 5, 2018

Proposals/Quotations Must Be Submitted to the Right Place at the Right Time

Here's another bid protest decision involving a late proposal. As often noted in similar cases, it is the offeror's responsibility to ensure that its proposal is submitted to the right person on the right date at the right time. Failing to do this, could result in the unnecessary risk that a proposal is eliminated from competition.

Last May, the Air Force issued an RFQ (Request for Quotation) for approximately 300 golf/utility carts. The RFQ required quotations be submitted by email by 12:00 p.m. on May 18th to the contracting officer and contract specialist whose names were included in the request. The solicitation included the clause at FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) 52.212-1 which provides that offerors are responsible for submitting  offers so as to reach the Government office designated in the solicitation by the time specified  in the solicitation. That provision further provides that any offer received after that date is late and will not be considered. Concerning electronic submissions, if an offer was received at the initial point of entry to the Government infrastructure not later than 5:00 p.m. one working day prior to the due date it would  be considered timely.

VS Aviation was one of several offerors submitting bids under the solicitation. However, the Air Force did not receive VS Aviation's bid and awarded the contract to another company on June 18th. When someone at VS Aviation reviewing awards in FBO (FedBizOps) noticed the award, the company requested a post-award debriefing from the Air Force. The Air Force replied that it had not received a quotation from VS Aviation and requested the VS Aviation re-send its previous emails. A few more tries to send the proposal were unsuccessful. Finally, on June 26, the Air Force received the proposal for the first time but not the "original, unaltered and unedited email submissions. Eventually, the problem was due to file size. VS Aviation's proposals were 21 and 24 megabytes in size while the Air Force limit on incoming email was 10 megabytes.. Therefore, the Air Force's system blocked VS Aviation's email. Not satisfied with this explanation, VS Aviation appealed to the GAO (Government Accountability Office).

GAO did not sustain the protest. It cited its much used precedence that it is the vendor's responsibility, when transmitting its quotation electronically, to ensure the delivery of its quotation to the proper place at the proper time. VS Aviation did not do that. It could have done so. It could have picked up the phone to inquire whether the Air Force received the proposal. As a result of its failure to make an inquiry, the GAO found unobjectionable the Air Force's decision not to consider VS Aviation's quotation (how could the Air Force have done otherwise in the circumstances?).

The GAO also highlighted for the record that in order for the Air Force to properly accept a late quotation pursuant to a couple of exceptions specified in the clause (i.e. the late proposal would not unduly delay award), the quotation must be received before award. Here, VS Aviation's quotation was not received until more than a week after contract award.

The full GAO decision can be accessed here.

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