Vendors Challenged More Federal Contracts in 2018

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And they got something out of the protest process less than half the time.

The number of bid protests filed against the federal government increased less than 1 percent last year, but contractors continue to get some sort of recompense from the agencies they’re challenging, according to a Government Accountability Office annual report.

Contractors filed 2,607 bid protests in fiscal 2018, an uptick from 2,596 in fiscal 2017. The number of bid protests has been increasing since 2013, except for fiscal 2017 when they dropped 7 percent.

The office closed 2,642 cases during the year, which breaks down as 2,505 protests, 53 cost claims and 84 requests for consideration. Even though the office saw a slight uptick in protests filed, they sustained them at a lower rate—15 percent—than in fiscal 2017.

“Our review shows that the most prevalent reasons for sustaining protests during the 2018 fiscal year were: unreasonable technical evaluation; unreasonable cost or price evaluation; [and] flawed selection decision,” GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong wrote in a letter to Congress.

But, as Armstrong notes in the letter, most protests aren’t decided on merit because agencies opt to take a corrective action instead of defending the procurement. Those corrective actions and the cases GAO sustains resulted in an effectiveness rate of 44 percent—in other words, a company that decides to challenge a government contract gets something out of the protest process a little less than half the time. That effectiveness rate is a drop from 47 percent in 2017.

In May, GAO started requiring all companies to file their bid protests through an online portal and pay a $350 filing fee. With only a few months of data, it’s too soon to tell if the changes will affect the number of protests filed, a GAO official told Nextgov.

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