Protest of Bid Rejection as Nonresponsive

B-201701.2: May 19, 1981

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A firm protested the prospective award of a Forest Service contract for the construction of new roads and reconstruction of existing roads in a National Forest. Upon discovering that the awardee failed to state a price for one of the items, the contracting officer rejected the bid as nonresponsive. This decision was based on the instructions to bidders which required all bidders to bid on each item. The instructions also warned bidders that failure to bid on each item would disqualify a bid. The proposed awardee protested the contracting officer's determination; the protest was forwarded to the Office of General Counsel, Department of Agriculture. It was the General Counsel's view that the award should be made to the proposed awardee, because the pricing pattern in the proposed awardee's bid documents established the existence of the error and the actual price intended for the omitted item. Subsequently, the protesting firm requested the General Counsel to reconsider its recommendation on the basis that the awardee's failure to price all of the solicitation items rendered the bid nonresponsive. When General Counsel reaffirmed its recommendation, the protester filed a protest with GAO. The protester argued that, to preserve the competitive bidding system, award should not be made to the proposed awardee, because its bid did and could not show the amount intended for the item. Generally, GAO has held that a bid is nonresponsive on its face for failure to indicate a price on every item as required by the solicitation and may not be corrected. An exception to this is that where the consistency of the pricing pattern on the bid establishes the error and the price, to hold that bid nonresponsive would be to convert an obvious clerical error of omission to a matter of responsiveness. GAO believed that it was clear that the price omission was an error and that a pattern existed from which the item price could be determined. Therefore, correction of the proposed awardee's bid to reflect the price of the omitted item was proper. Accordingly, the protest was denied.