Your Right to Protest and Dispute a Government Decision Regarding a Contract
There are three ways to protest a government decision regarding a contract, claims Daniels (n.d). Those three ways include filing a formal complaint with (1) the contracting agency, (2) the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), or (3) the Court of Federal Claims. Of these three, the most effective method of filing a complaint would be with the GAO (Daniels, n.d.). However, it is important to recognize the difference between a protest and a dispute. A protest is a complaint about a bid being awarded to what is perceived to be an unworthy contractor. A dispute is different, because it more specifically refers to the way the contracting officers handled the bid applications and made the decision. Not all persons can protest or dispute a government decision regarding a contract. The disputer or protester must be a primary stakeholder in the organization or interest group filing the complaint, and must also reveal that there would have been a clear potential to win the bid (“Your Right to Protest and Dispute a Government Decision Regarding a Contract,” 2012). It is also important to recognize the right of an individual or business to protest a defect in the bidding process. “Bid defects include allegedly restrictive specifications, omission of a required provision, and ambiguous or indefinite evaluation factors,” (“Your Right to Protest and Dispute a Government Decision Regarding a Contract,” 2012). In other words, if the method by which bids were solicited and evaluated seems defective or corrupt, then the person can and should file a protest and/or dispute. Involving legal counsel at every step of the process may help with navigating the paperwork and rules regarding the protestation and disputation processes, especially with regards to the GAO.
Disputes with the GAO or the Court of Federal Claims often involve military contractors, either as the disputer or the winning offerer. It is important to know how and why to protest and dispute contracts related to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) system. Contracts are incredibly lucrative, and understanding the dispute process can also help to root out corruption and ensure a more transparent government operation. The FAR pertains to the federal government’s programs and policies related to acquisitions of goods and services for various institutions, including but not limited to the military. Infrastructure development and Department of Interior acquisitions, for example, would fall under the general rubric of FAR. There may be disputes related to minute details of the contract, too, such as provisions related to insurance coverage in situations where insurance may be warranted (U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO, 2013). The GAO (2013) keeps track and lists disputes as a matter of public record to promote transparency.
Small businesses tend to be systematically disadvantaged when it comes to contract awards. The cost of developing a contract bid proposal is one of the barriers to entering the contract competition. Thus, the FAR has evolved to welcome applicants from disenfranchised small business sectors and create a sort of “affirmative action” program for small businesses hoping to land lucrative government contracts (GAO, 2013). Rules for federal procurement can and should follow general equal opportunity rules established by the Supreme Court. This is why disputes can potentially impact legislation and public policy. The dispute could lead to shifts in attitudes and practices toward smaller organizations hoping to develop new technologies, tools, and services to improve the nation’s core infrastructure. Disputing a government decision regarding a bid is not just a right; it is a duty.
Daniels, C. (n.d.). Bid protests, Part I. North Carolina Military Business Center. Retrieved online: http://www.ncmbc.us/blog/2010/07/bid-protests-part-i-–-what-losing-and-winning-offerors-need-to-know-2/
US Government Accountability Office (GAO, 2013). Comments of Proposed Federal Acquisition Regulation. Retrieved online: http://gao.gov/products/116546
“Your Right to Protest and Dispute a Government Decision Regarding a Contract,” (2012). Retrieved online: http://www.bizfilings.com/toolkit/sbg/run-a-business/govt-contracts/right-to-protest-dispute-govt-contract-decision.aspx
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