GAO Rejects Appeal, Decides Key Bid Information Wasn’t Really ‘Close at Hand’

By Carol L. O’Riordan

Don’t ever assume anything. Particularly, if you are a bidder on a government contract, don’t assume that the agency knows everything you know.

That was the lesson that Wegco., Inc., a D.C.-based company, learned the hard way on May 21, 2012, when its appeal of its failure to obtain a General Services Administration (GSA) contract award was denied by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO).
In 2011, the GSA sought proposals by companies that were interested in performing building operations and maintenance services at its Nebraska Avenue complex in D.C. Wegco bid on the contract but failed to obtain it because the GSA found that its proposal failed to include the licenses of its key personnel – engineers, plumbers, mechanics, and so on. Those licenses were a required element of the bid, and without them, the bid was incomplete; thus, it was rejected.

In its appeal to the GAO of the GSA’s rejection of its bid, Wegco argued, among other things, that the GSA already had the required licenses on file, since Wegco was already working for the GSA on the project as a partner with the company that was doing the work. So, it argued, the GSA was fully aware of everyone’s qualifications.

Wegco noted, in fact, that the GAO has found in the past that under certain circumstances, an agency’s bid evaluators “cannot ignore information of which they are personally aware, even if that information is not included in the offeror’s proposal.”

However, the GAO rejected this argument. The GAO found that this “close at hand” principle only applies to a bidder’s past performance, not to its technical acceptability. The GAO ruled that “an offeror’s technical evaluation is dependent on the information furnished, and an offeror that fails to submit an adequately written proposal runs the risk of having its proposal rejected as unacceptable.”

Thus, Wegco was completely out of luck. Next time, it will no doubt submit full copies of the licenses of everyone who is supposed to work on a project. It’s a good lesson.

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