By Grace Mahan
In order to bring claims in front of both the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims, protesters must be interested parties with Article III standing. As a result, both of these tribunals may dismiss a protest on the grounds that it is moot. In a recent case, Coast Professional, Inc. v United States, the COFC dismissed a protest for this very reason after the agency in question took corrective actions.
In the case, several private agencies conducting collection and administrative resolution services for the Department of Education initiated a protest against the DoE after the agency announced that they would not receive award term extensions (ATEs) for their task orders because they had had high error rates during an audit.
In light of the original protest and a subsequent appeal by the plaintiffs, the DoE proposed corrective actions to rectify the situation caused by its refusal to give the ATEs. The DoE specifically explained that its decision not to issue the ATEs would be reconsidered and that the results of the audit that had led to the revocation of the ATEs would be excluded. As a result of these corrective actions, the DoE offered the plaintiffs the option to either receive ATEs or to continue performance under separate small business contracts. Simultaneously, the DoE argued that the plaintiffs’ amended complaints before the COFC were moot in light of its proposed corrective actions.
However, noting that the DoE’s proposed corrective action plan only allowed the plaintiffs to receive a small portion of the contract amount that they would have received as ATE recipients originally, the plaintiffs argued that their claims were not moot.
The COFC rejected the plaintiffs’ argument. The court ruled that the question of determining a contractor’s entitlement to a certain number of accounts based on a contract is not in the court’s bid protest purview. Instead, the court held that by directly addressing the alleged wrong in its corrective action, the agency clearly showed a rational connection between the protest and the corrective action. Thus DoE’s voluntary corrective action was rationally related to the alleged defect, was not arbitrary and capricious, and rendered the plaintiffs’ concerns moot.
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