On March 31, 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a press release concerning a bid protest decision that resolved seventeen protests, which challenged the award of contracts by the Department of Education (DOE) for student loan debt collection services.
On March 27, 2017, the GAO sustained several of the protests in part, finding that DOE made several prejudicial errors in evaluating the proposals, which led it to making unreasonable source selection decisions. The GAO recommended that the DOE reevaluate proposals and make new source selection decisions. The decision itself was issued under a protective order – hence the press release – because the decision may contain proprietary or source selection sensitive information.
While the decision regarding the seventeen protests discussed above is still not publicly available, on April 6, 2017, the GAO issued a decision in which it declined to reconsider the protests decision. Two intervenors who had received awards in the original procurement filed “motions to vacate” asking that the GAO reconsider and rescind its decision issued on March 27, 2017.
This denial of reconsideration gives us a little bit more background into the procurement. The GAO notes in its decision that between December 19, 2016 and January 9, 2017, it received twenty-four protests relating to the DOE procurement. The GAO dismissed five for various procedural or pleading deficiencies. Of the remaining nineteen, seventeen of those were consolidated as they raised several common challenges to the agency’s evaluation of proposals and ultimate award decisions. Those seventeen were decided in the above referenced protected decision. The remaining protests were withdrawn and are currently being pursued at the Court of Federal Claims. Notice of intent to file at the Court was filed by the protestor at the Court of Federal Claims on March 24, and the GAO was notified on March 28 that the protestor was withdrawing its protest.
In their request for reconsideration, the two intervenors sought to nullify the GAO’s decision sustaining the protests based on the March 24 pre-filing notice arguing that the notice had the immediate and automatic effect of divesting the GAO of jurisdiction under 4 C.F.R. § 21.11(b). In denying the request, the GAO noted that it was not actually provided notice until March 28 when the protester withdrew its protest, which was one day after it issued its decision on March 27. Furthermore, this particular protest was not among the seventeen consolidated protests that the GAO decided in the March 27 decision. Finally, the GAO noted that the mere fact that a notice of intent to file a complaint was filed does not automatically divest the GAO of jurisdiction but rather triggers the requirement for it to consider whether dismissal is required under 4 C.F.R. § 21.11(b). Specifically, (b) only requires dismissal where the GAO determines that the subject matter of the protest is before a court of competent jurisdiction. Therefore, all things considered, the GAO dismissed the requests for reconsideration.
About the Author:
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.