We recently wrote about issues bidders have faced with submitting proposals via FedConnect that have led to GAO concluding the bidders’ proposals were untimely. In line with these decisions, GAO has again demonstrated its strict enforcement of solicitation instructions and deadlines in Matter of: Advanced Decisions Vectors, Inc., B-412307 (Jan. 11, 2016) by denying a bidder’s challenge to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision not to consider the bidder’s quotation because the quotation was not received by the solicitation’s deadline.
In Advanced Decisions Vectors, DHS issued an RFQ through the GSA’s e-Buy system to vendors holding contracts under the MOBIS Schedule. With respect to quotation submission, DHS required that quotations be submitted by email to the contract specialist before the 10:00 a.m. EST, September 8, 2015, deadline. DHS specifically cautioned that quotations “must be received at the specified email address” by the deadline to be considered timely, that “[q]uotations not received by the time and date specified and in the manner specified” would not be considered for award, and that DHS would confirm receipt by email reply.
Advanced Decisions Vectors, Inc. (ADV) submitted its quotation to the contract specialist by email as required five minutes prior to the September 8, 10:00 a.m. deadline. but it did not receive a receipt confirmation It also timely uploaded its quotation to the GSA e-Buy portal. However, the Agency did not receive the quotation and therefore did not consider it in the evaluation. On October 5, when ADV contacted the agency regarding the status of its quotation, ADV learned that DHS had not received its quotation and had issued the task order to another vendor on September 24. After some investigation, DHS determined that its email security services, which prevent spam and malicious emails from reaching DHS’ email servers, had blocked ADV’s email and quotation for some unknown reason.
In considering ADV’s protest, GAO first held that ADV’s submission through the e-Buy portal imparted no obligation on DHS to consider ADV’s quotation because the solicitation did not state that e-Buy was a valid method of transmitting quotations. GAO distinguished AECOM Tech. Servs., Inc., B-411862 (Nov. 12, 2015) (in which the agency should have considered the protester’s proposal despite its submission to the wrong location when the agency knew of the proposal submission) by noting that DHS personnel were not actually aware of ADV’s quotation submission through e-Buy.
Second, GAO decided that ADV’s quotation was untimely because ADV did not meet the solicitation requirement of ensuring that the quotation was “received” by the agency (and not merely submitted or transmitted by the bidder) before the deadline. ADV’s proof that it had emailed its quotation to the contract specialist did “not demonstrate that a quotation from the protester was received by the agency in a manner consistent with the solicitation.” Finally, GAO rejected ADV’s argument that DHS should have considered the quotation it provided on October 5 (when ADV inquired on the status) because the quotation was untimely according to the RFQ’s provisions, and therefore it would have been improper for DHS to consider the late quotation.
Given that DHS did not receive ADV’s quotation before the deadline, ADV failed to seek timely confirmation from DHS, and DHS did not actually receive ADV’s quotation until ADV followed up nearly two weeks after the task order was issued, GAO found the agency’s actions reasonable.
This case highlights, once again, that government contractors need to review the solicitation carefully for requirements regarding bid submission. In addition to simply being aware of the proper steps for submission, contractors should give themselves sufficient time not only to submit their bids, but also to confirm that the agency has received the bid. A contractor that waits until just a few minutes before the deadline to submit its bid runs a very real risk of not having ample opportunity to deal with issues that may arise, such as technical glitches or submissions rejected due to size (issues we have seen in the past), and to ensure their bids reach the appropriate destination before the deadline.
About the Author: Jackie Unger is an associate with PilieroMazza in the Government Contracts Group. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.