Protester Deprived… Gov’t Strikes Out

I admit I try to word the title to spark some interest.  It is Government Contracting and I admit it can be boring at times.  I borrowed this title from part of the Net News article it comes from.  I do love a good protest decision story. As government contract dollars shrink, companies are turning to a better understanding of their rights as contractors, the ability to protest, and tools to help them cut costs. I have always tried to relay a little of each of these areas through this blog. Today’s post is about a protest upheld by the Comptroller General.

When the government issues an RFP, the work to decipher what is meant by it, the scope of work to be performed, and the potential cost to complete that work becomes increasingly difficult with a far-reaching solicitation. This was the case when Nexant, Inc. decided to bid on “assistance in establishing a private financing advisory network.” According to the CG decision, the Government struck out on the protester’s proposal evaluation.

baseball-pitching-mlbstrikeStrike one – the Government, during discussions, asked the protester to “clarify [it’s] overall understanding [of a task].” Heretofore, the Government had decided the contractor didn’t understand the geographic scope of the project. By asking only for clarification, rather than indicating the contractor didn’t understand the scope, the Government did not adequately convey the nature of it’s concerns and a critical weakness remained on the evaluation.

Strike two – the Government’s point-scoring methodology and evaluation was found to be unreasonable. Imagine if you will there are 5 evaluators and they each have a checklist of 20 items. If you simply average those evaluation criteria, you will come up with a much different number than if you were to come to a consensus on the results instead. One evaluator could be overly harsh on a few items and another on a few other items – the overall score then suffers based on pockets of potential misunderstanding of the evaluators, not necessarily based on the consensus  The CG found that this methodology “cannot be said to be reliable or reflective of the comparative merits of the proposals.”

Strike three – the Government’s source selection document did not reasonable explain the basis for the selection of the higher-cost proposal. When a premium is to be paid, there should normally be a justification document to give insight into the decision-making. In this case, the source selection was based principally on the ranking of the proposals based on the flawed scoring system from strike two.

In the end, the CG recommended that the acquisition be re-opened, meaningful discussions take place, revised proposals be obtained, and a new source selection decision be made on the new information.


Portions of this post originally appeared in CCH NetNews (a FREE newsletter from our amazing editorial staff) topics and any details can be found via CCH IntelliConnect (an amazing online subscription resource with GovCon content to keep you informed and up-to-date).


Proposal:  n.

      1. The act of proposing.
      2. A plan that is proposed.
      3. An offer of marriage.

proposal1Can you think of how this word makes you feel?  Perhaps it brings up memories of a time in youth when there were strong emotions of love.  Maybe it makes your palms sweat (again) about whether you got the right ring or would say the right thing.  It could make you giddy or regretful in some cases.

A single word can emote so many feelings one way or another.  “Proposal” is one of those words in government contracts.  I have been working for a B2B company for quite some time now and my days of writing proposals were basically behind me.  Then, in late December 2012, just as I was settling in “for a long winter’s nap,” in my e-mail there “arose such a clatter” I sprang to my memory to see what I could do about it.

I am currently managing a proposal to offer our amazing healthcare product for a large organization.  Partially because I “like” to write proposals – partially because I like the product as it would apply to Gov Con (hopefully by late 2013).  Either way, I found myself at the helm of a large proposal that was going somewhere other than a government agency.

proposal2Is it wrong that I am enjoying this?  Managing the expectations of the customer throughout the response is great.  There are so many books written on “the best way,” but when it isn’t going to a government professional, it makes it a lot easier to manage.  The structure required is minimal as long as the questions are answered, and, get this, there are NO PAGE LIMITS!  (Admit it, if you have been part of a proposal before your mouth just dropped a little or you sighed in empathy for my good fortune).

I have often daydreamed about how to solve all of those thoughts you are having about proposals in the government contracting realm:


  • “How do I manage page limits?”
  • “How do I handle required formatting?”
  • “What about the different volumes?”
  • “Are there forms required to go with this based on the Provisions in the RFP?”
  • “How do I work through Pink, Red, and Gold without losing my original thoughts and ideas?” (remember in school how you would erase an answer to change it and find out later that your first instinct was the right one?

I imagine technology has come far enough that we should be able to automate this.  Has anyone seen a package like this?  I know the government has the ability to “automate” RFP writing to some extent, but is there a tool out there to “automate” proposal writing?  What have you seen?

Starting the Government Contracts Marathon…

In case you are not a member of NCMA or did not see the posts I had made to the Linked In groups before, I wanted to highlight a portion of the e-Newsletter sent out yesterday by NCMA.  The whitepaper is probably worth the read.

Message from Our Corporate Sponsor
Wolters Kluwer LogoFeel like you’ve run a marathon before even getting through the RFP? The acquisition process certainly seems that way, for beginners and professionals alike.

Wolters Kluwer has the resources to help you cross the finish line. This white paper, written by expert Martin J. Herbert IV, MSAcc, provides a course map for the “first six miles” of the government contracting marathon, along with a list of helpful websites for each section/mile.