[Protest Against Exclusion From Competition Under Interior Procurement]

B-218457: Jul 19, 1985

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A firm protested its exclusion from competition for a Department of the Interior contract to study an electric utility power system. The solicitation specifications excluded offerers who had had a contract with the utility within the last 7 years. The protester contended that prior work it had done for the utility was different than that proposed in the solicitation and that it should have been allowed to submit a proposal with personnel that had relevant experience but no experience with the utility, rather than being totally excluded from the procurement. Interior stated that: (1) the work the protester performed for the utility during the past 7 years was of a similar nature and would be considered an organizational conflict of interest; and (2) if the contract were awarded to the protester, it would be reviewing its own prior report and could be biased. GAO held that the responsibility for determining whether a firm has a conflict of interest and to what extent the firm should be excluded from competition is a matter for the procuring agency which GAO will only overturn when it is shown to be unreasonable. GAO agreed with Interior that: (1) there was a clear need to obtain the views of an independent third party; and (2) it would be inappropriate for new employees to review the protester's prior findings since they would still know the identity of the prior report. Accordingly, the protest was denied.

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