Bid Protests at GAO: A Descriptive Guide

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Overview of the Bid Protest Process

The bid protest process at GAO begins with the filing of a written protest. Unless the protest is dismissed because it is procedurally or substantively defective (for example, the protest is untimely or the protest fails to clearly state legally sufficient grounds of protest), the contracting agency is required to file with GAO a report responding to the protest and to provide a copy of that report to the protester. The protester then has an opportunity to file written comments on the report. Other parties may be permitted to intervene, which means that they will also receive a copy of the report and will be allowed to file written comments on it.

During the course of a protest, GAO may schedule, as appropriate, status or other informal types of conferences to resolve procedural matters and to obtain information material to the disposition of the protest. GAO also may find that a hearing is necessary to resolve factual and legal issues raised in the protest. If it decides to hold a hearing, GAO will usually conduct a pre-hearing conference to decide the issues that will be considered at the hearing, to identify the witnesses who will testify at the hearing, and to settle procedural questions. After the hearing, all parties will be allowed to submit written comments on the hearing.

After the record is complete, GAO will consider the facts and legal issues raised and will issue a decision, a copy of which will be sent to all parties participating in the protest. GAO may sustain the protest (that is, find that the agency violated a procurement statute or regulation and that the violation prejudiced the protester), in which case GAO will recommend appropriate corrective action. Alternatively, GAO may deny the protest or may dismiss the protest without reviewing the matter. GAO will issue its decision not later than 100 days from the date the protest was filed. The exact date on which GAO issues the decision depends on the urgency of the procurement, the complexity of the factual and legal issues raised in the protest, and GAO's work load.

At any time during the process of developing the record, GAO, at the request of one or more of the parties or on its own initiative, may determine that the protest is suitable for alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This may take the form of either negotiation assistance, where the GAO attorney offers to assist the parties in reaching agreement on resolution of the matter, or outcome prediction, where the GAO attorney advises the parties of the attorney’s view of the likely outcome based on the record, so that the likely unsuccessful party may take appropriate action to resolve the protest.

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