Protest Against Sole-Source

B-195595: Dec 18, 1979

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A firm protested a sole-source award by the District of Columbia for a voting registration system. The protester contended that there was no adequate justification for the sole-source award, that the District failed to develop specifications to reflect its minimum needs, and that no price negotiations were conducted with the awardee. In November 1978 and May 1979, prior to the award of the contract, the awardee's voting machine system had been utilized on a trial basis in the District. In 1978, Congress appropriated funds for the District to purchase a voting system, the funds to be expended by September 30, 1979. On July 13, 1979, after an investigation of other available systems and a statement of minimum needs, the District purchased the awardee's system. GAO regarded both the investigation and the statement of minimum needs as inadequate. Further, according to a timetable established by the District's Office of General Services, there was adequate time to make a competitive procurement. Thus, the District improperly awarded the sole-source contract. The protester requested that GAO either declare the contract void or, in the alternative, award the protester proposal preparation costs for its unsuccessful attempts to compete with the awardee. Given the facts of the case, GAO would ordinarily have declared it void; however, since the contract had already been fully performed, this could not be done. Proposal preparation costs can only be awarded where breach of an implied contract by capricious action by the Government towards a claimant has denied the claimant fair and honest consideration of its proposal. In this case, no contract was formed since no solicitation was issued and no proposal was submitted; accordingly, the protester's claim for proposal preparation costs was not allowable. However, the shortcomings of the procurement were brought to the attention of the Mayor of the District of Columbia.