Bid protests are on the rise in the federal space. According to the GAO, last year marked the third year in a row bid protests for federal contract awards grew by more than 15%.
Reasons for More Bid Protests
In an article in Federal Times, several reasons were cited for this growth in disputed awards. First, the trend of consolidating multiple procurements into a single contract means the overall stakes are higher as a single contract decision can decide the fate of the contractor with that particular agency for a lengthy period of time.
Second, contracts appear to be increasing in complexity (particularly for things such as multi-year technology contracts). This increased complexity creates room for more mistakes and expanded opportunities for legitimate complaints.
Third, in 2008, Congress began allowing contractors to protest not just entire contracts, but also individual task orders within larger contracts. According to the article, about half the growth in protests can be attributed to disputes on contract task orders worth more than $10 million.
Finally, poor communication with contractors contributes to increased protests. Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has been telling agencies to break up some of their larger contracts and to stop trying to write “protest-proof” procurements. However his strongest advice to agencies has been to communicate more with businesses.
Not Just a Federal Problem
The latter issue is a problem throughout government procurement at all levels, not just federal buying. While communicating with competing vendors after an award shouldn’t be a time-consuming and expensive process on the part of the buying agency, all too often it is outright ignored. Significant time, effort and money goes into responding to RFPs by vendors. They should at least have access to information as to why their solution didn’t make the cut.