Even the Big Boys Mess Up

April 19, 2007 on 9:29 am | In Bids and Proposals | Comments Off

The “single” portal for accessing bid and proposal opportunities is FedBizOpps, but what some agencies do is maintain their own site. To meet legal requirements, they post only a notice on FedBizOpps that the real substance of the IFB or RFP can be found on that agency’s opportunity site. Some of them even require that you create an account there before you can access the information.

The Department of the Interior does this and in a recent competition for legal research databases one of the competitors failed to follow up before submission and missed an amendment. The players here were Westlaw and LexisNexis, companies that you would assume to have pretty sophisticated proposal systems in place. But Lexis made two mistakes. First, they submitted a confusing proposal by including material in an appendix without explaining how that information addressed the requirements of the RFP. In reviewing the agency’s actions the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said:

In contrast, with respect to [certain RFP requirements], the protester asserts that the agency should have found various lists of information sources in the appendix to be comparable to the requirement in the RFP; the agency is under no such obligation to parse the protester’s proposal to try to determine whether the proposal offers comparable sources of information. Even assuming that the information offered in the proposal’s appendix is comparable to the required databases, by placing the information in the appendix and requiring the agency to piece together the proposal’s content, the protester failed in its responsibility to clearly demonstrate compliance with the RFP requirements.

Further, Lexis argued that the amendment was not properly posted. In response the GAO stated that, “The agency’s posting on the FedBizOpps website had a clearly identified hyperlink to additional information, including amendments. The agency has explained at length when and how it posted the amendment to both the DOI/NBC EC website and, through the hyperlink, to FedBizOpps.” GAO went on to also note that, “In this regard, we note that the awardee states that it found the amendment the day it was posted by ‘carefully monitor[ing] both FedBizOpps and the [DOI/NBC EC] website for any postings.’”

So the lessons here are quite clear. First – it is YOUR responsibility to make sure your proposal is clear to the evaluators. The use of an RFP Compliance Matrix can be quite useful in assuring that this is done. Second – it is YOUR responsibility to locate any amendments to the solicitation once it is posted. And it is irrelevant that some agencies play a bit of hide and seek both with their announcements and amendments by using their own sites to post the relevant information.  If you have questions about any of this – please ask!

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