Protest Alleging IFB Specifications Were Defective and Unduly Restrictive

B-196025: Feb 11, 1980

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An individual protested the award by the Air Force of a contract for food service attendant services under a small business set-aside. The protester was an employee of the incumbent contractor and proposed to form his own company, but did not submit a bid. The allegations made in the protest were that the invitation for bids (IFB) was unduly restrictive; that inadequate start-up lead time was provided; that bids were opened and award made in disregard of a pending protest; and that award was made to a contractor who was not the lowest bidder. Contrary to a statement by the Air Force, a protester need not necessarily submit a bid to be considered an interested party. The initial protest was filed with the Air Force, prior to bid opening; after a contract was awarded, a protest was filed in a timely manner with both the Air Force and GAO. With regard to the allegations that the IFB was unduly restrictive and that it did not provide for an adequate start-up lead time, GAO found no merit to the protest and found the Air Force position to be substantially correct. Further, the determination to proceed with the award was appropriate since the Air Force did so believing that additional delay of the procurement would threaten the performance of essential services and notified GAO of its action. The allegation that award was made to other than the lowest bidder was incorrect; the apparent low bidder was found nonresponsive for failure to respond to two material amendments to the IFB. Accordingly, the protest was denied.