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Bid Protest: What is involved and should you go through with it?

Bid Protest SignIf one contractor has secured a government contract, another can still derail the process by filing a formal bid protest, thus resulting in a long delay while the case for the protest gets resolved. When this happens, the competitor alleges that something was amiss in the original selection process and asks for a review – and another opportunity to secure the bid. The bid protest can be launched because of allegations that the bid was flawed or the selection process was unfair or tainted in some way.

To launch a bid protest, the government contractor needs to file an oral or written complaint with the agency doing the hiring. Other stages of protest are available, but most bid protests begin at the agency level and are launched by a contractor who missed out on a new contract or a contract re compete. Learning more about the bid protest process can help you determine if this is the right approach for your brand and allow you to prepare for the possibility of a protest on one of your own successful bids. 

Who Can File a Bid Protest?

Contractors that are directly involved in the bidding process can file a protest. To do so, a business or organization must meet several requirements:

  • The contractor must have official standing: To file a protest, the contractor must have also filed or intended to file a proposal for the project in question. They need to have been injured in some way by a flaw or defect in the process – there is no officially recognized standing for an organization that does not meet these requirements.
  • The protest needs to be filed in a timely manner: If you want to file a bid protest, you have a limited time to do so. A bid protest needs to be filed within 10 days to be considered.
  • There must be grounds for a complaint: The protester needs to have a tangible reason for filing the protest. Simply not winning the bid is not enough; the bid protest needs to outline how the determination and award process was flawed or defective in some way. The process is supposed to be impartial and fair; if it is not, a contractor can file a bid protest.

Should I File a Bid Protest? 

The process is there for a reason: to ensure fairness for those who are seeking government contracts. If you have missed out on a project and feel that the selection process itself was unfair or defective, then a bid protest can trigger a more substantial review of the process and ensure you were treated fairly. Simply filing a protest doesn't mean you will win; it simply means that the decision you are concerned about will be reviewed.

If you have the standing to file a bid protest, you must do so quickly; you should also consider some of the potential legal ramifications of filing a protest and be prepared to back up your claims. Bid protests are becoming increasingly commonplace in the competitive marketplace and you should be prepared for the other party to insist on an alternative dispute resolution or litigation to defend their successful bid. 

Protests Work Two Ways

While you have the option of launching the bid protest process on your own, your competitors can use it as well. Even if you have met all criteria, done everything right and secured the bid, a protest by another party can still derail your project and cost you both time and money as you are forced to defend yourself. Any time you make a bid for a government project, you should be aware that you could incur additional costs and delays if a competitor launches a protest, even one without actual grounds or an issue on your part.

Learning more about the bid protest process can help you determine if you need to launch a protest for your own organization and prepare yourself for the possibility of a protest on a contract of your own. Before you make a decision about whether or not to file a protest, you should evaluate the cost of the protest against the probability of winning the protest. The Government Accountability Office maintains information on bid protests, including an annual report that highlights the rate of sustained versus failed protests.  

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