Protest of Bid Rejection for Lateness

B-196350: Jan 21, 1980

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A firm protested the determination by the procuring agency that its bid was received late and could not be considered. Two days before the original date set for receipt of bids, the contracting officer discovered that two pages of the specifications had been inadvertently omitted from the original bid package. Because the contents of the pages could have had an impact on a bidder's price, the contracting officer issued Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. Amendment No. 2 was issued telegraphically and extended the date for the receipt of bids by 5 days, allowing time for amendment No. 3 to be mailed to all bidders. Three of the seven bids made on the procurement, including the protester's bid, were received at the bid depository after the deadline for receipt of bids. The contracting officer determined that, of the three apparently late bids, only the protester's bid was technically late since it had been sent by express rather than registered or certified mail. The remaining two bids had been received on time and mishandled at the installation. The protester argued that, for the purposes of a procurement, express mail is the equivalent of registered or certified mail, and the apparent lateness of its bid was due solely to a delay in the mails, for which it was not responsible. The protester was also critical of the length of time it took the procuring agency to deliver Amendment No. 3. A bidder has the responsibility to assure the timely arrival of its bid and must bear the responsibility for late arrival unless the specific conditions of the IFB are met. Since the IFB specified that bids should be sent by registered or certified mail, and since GAO has held that express mail is not the equivalent of registered or certified mail, the protester clearly did not meet the conditions of the IFB. The protester's criticism of the length of time it took the procuring agency to have Amendment No. 3 delivered could not form the basis for a successful protest since GAO will not question an otherwise proper procurement for failure to provide a bidder a copy of an amendment in time for him to submit a timely bid as long as the method of solicitation has provided adequate competition and reasonable prices and there has been no deliberate attempt to exclude that bidder. Accordingly, protest was denied.