A desperate strategy: When in doubt, protest

A desperate strategy: When in doubt, protest

I am often asked: Why are the number of protests filed at the Government Accountability Office rising when there is a decline in the amount of money the government is spending? There is no simple answer to that question. But, this protest is a good example of many of the protests, which are responsible for the rise in protests to the GAO. Simply put, it’s desperation.

Protesting contractor: Pacific Lock Co., Honesdale, Pa.

Protest issue: Whether or not the winning contractor was capable of meeting the bid requirements.

GAO decision, Dec. 27, 2011: Denied.

Post-mortem: Pacific Lock Co. protested the award of 6,000 padlocks to a competitor. The solicitation was set aside for small businesses, and manufacturing had to take place domestically. According to Pacific Lock it “knew” that the awardee could not produce the locks domestically, based upon industry knowledge.

True? Who knows; but without adequate evidence, the GAO was forced to deny the protest, noting that an agency is required only to rely on the representations of an offeror in its proposal. A competitor’s anecdotal evidence — or “knowing,” so to speak — isn’t enough. And the government is not expected to investigate every offeror in every contract.

This protest is a good example of some of the cases the GAO is hearing more frequently: protests of smaller contract awards filed by contractors without counsel based upon a gut feeling that the awardee is not eligible. I believe the economy is at least one of the driving factors in decisions to roll the dice and protest, hoping for some relief.

Acting without counsel is fairly inexpensive, and considering that more than 40 percent of protests filed result in some action taken by the agency that could benefit the protestor, this may not be a bad strategy. Here it wasn’t effective; but with growing competition for shrinking government dollars, contractors will more and more often take their chances.