Bid Protests at GAO: A Descriptive Guide

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For more than 75 years, GAO has provided an objective, independent, and impartial forum for the resolution of disputes concerning the awards of federal contracts. Over the years, the decisions of the Comptroller General of the United States, the head of GAO, in bid protest cases have resulted in a uniform body of law applicable to the procurement process upon which the Congress, the courts, contracting agencies, and the public rely. Although protesters may be represented by counsel, filing a bid protest with GAO is easy and inexpensive and does not require the services of an attorney. In addition, matters can usually be resolved more quickly by protests filed with GAO than by court litigation.

This booklet is an informal, practical guide to the bid protest process at GAO; however, it is not the law. The legal rules governing this process are set forth in GAO's Bid Protest Regulations. Since 1985, GAO has had detailed regulations to inform protesters of the rules concerning where and how to file a protest, what to expect in the way of subsequent actions, and the time frames established for completion of those actions.

These regulations were promulgated to implement the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984. The regulations have been revised over time to implement statutory and other changes. Most recently, the regulations were revised, effective January 1, 2003, to conform the regulations to current practice and otherwise improve the efficiency and efficacy of the bid protest process at GAO. The revised regulations will appear in Title 4 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Part 21, and are reproduced in this booklet for ease of reference.

GAO changes its regulations from time to time because of changes in applicable statutes, a binding court decision, or when experience dictates that a modification is appropriate. These changes are published in the Federal Register, and then incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations, which is published annually and reflects the revisions or additions to the regulations that were published in the Federal Register during the preceding year. Because the regulations are published in the Federal Register, protesters and other parties are deemed to have "constructive knowledge" of them, meaning that they are expected to comply with the regulations, even if they have never actually read the regulations.

In deciding bid protests, GAO considers whether federal agencies have complied with statutes and regulations controlling government procurements. The main statutes controlling federal procurements are the Armed Services Procurement Act of 1947 and the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as amended, particularly by the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984, the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, and the Federal Acquisition Reform Act of 1996 and the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996, as included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996. These statutes are found in the United States Code, titles 10 and 41, respectively, and are implemented by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and individual agency regulations. GAO's Bid Protest Regulations govern GAO's handling of protests and impose certain requirements on contracting agencies, protesters, and others who participate in the bid protest process at GAO.

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