Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Justice
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Protesting the terms of the solicitation; Procurement Announcement
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: In its procurement announcement, an agency must include an “accurate description” of the property or services to be purchased, sufficient to provide prospective offerors with the ability to make an informed business judgment as to whether to request a copy of the solicitation.
Ideal Fastener Corporation (IFC) protests a request for proposals (RFP), issued by Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR), for 22 commercial products to be used in the manufacture of military uniforms.
UNICOR posted the RFP as a combined synopsis/solicitation on FedBizOpps.gov. UNICOR titled the combined synopsis/solicitation “Commercial Items, Hook & Loop, Fasteners, Barrell Locks for ACU & BDU’s.” The combined synopsis/solicitation also included a link to a document title, “Item Specification Text,” which together with the RFP identified, and described in detail, the 22 individual items UNICOR sought to procure. These items were six types of hooks, eight types of loops, seven types of slide fasteners, and one type of barrel lock.
IFC explains that it is a long-time supplier of slide fasteners to the federal government but that it does not produce hook and loop fasteners. While conducting a search of FedBizOpps for potential contracting opportunities, one of IFC’s employees viewed the title of the notice for the combined synopsis/solicitation; however, because the title did not use the term “slide fasteners” or “zippers,” the employee did not open the link to the actual synopsis, which would have led IFC to the RFP and item specifications. IFC did not submit a proposal.
IFC argues that by using the term “fasteners” instead of the more specific terms “slide fasteners” or “zippers” in the title, UNICOR failed to properly identify the procurement and thereby frustrated IFC’s ability to compete for that portion of the procurement.
GAO states that the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 generally requires that contracting agencies obtain full and open competition through the use of competitive procedures. In furtherance of this goal, agencies are required to use reasonable methods to publicize their procurement needs. The official public medium for providing notice of contracting actions by federal agencies is the FedBizOpps website, which has been designated by statute and regulation as the government-wide point of entry. The notice provided by an agency must include an “accurate description” of the property or services to be purchased, sufficient to provide prospective offerors with the ability to make an informed business judgment as to whether to request a copy of the solicitation.
Here, the combined synopsis/solicitation posted by UNICOR on FedBizOpps was not misleading and provided potential offerors, such as IFC, with notice of the intended procurement, which included the acquisition of slide fasteners. Given that slide fasteners are a type of fastener, the title of the combined synopsis/solicitation accurately reflected the fact that the RFP may have potentially included a requirement for slide fasteners. It was therefore incumbent on IFC to review the actual synopsis, RFP, and item specifications, all of which were easily available to IFC, to determine whether the procurement in fact included a requirement slide fasteners. In this regard, we have held that potential offerors such as IFC have an affirmative duty to make every reasonable effort to obtain solicitation materials. The protest is denied.