Contractor Responsibility DeterminationRecently, many federal bidders have experienced an adverse contractor responsibility when the agency evaluates their proposal.

Challenging the agency’s nonresponsibility determination can be tricky in a bid protest.

The core issue of contention occurs when the contracting officer issues a negative determination of responsibility because the proposal was technically unacceptable.

Proposal mistakes: The heart of most contractor responsibility concerns rests with the content of the submitted proposal. For example, if the proposal asks you to describe in detail how you intend to perform a certain task, failure to provide sufficient detail could end up with a negative responsibility determination.

Showing that your company has the necessary ability, equipment or resources to perform the solicitation requirements is also another common problem.

Does the agency have to engage in clarifications?

The answer is no. It is up to the government agency whether its wants to engage with some level of dialogue with contractors. There is certainly no hard requirement for it to do so. See Rotech Healthcare, Inc., B-409020, B-409020.2, Jan. 10, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 28 at 6.

Tip: an agency can only come to a valid contractor nonresponsibility determination after evaluating a proposal. See  FAR 9.105-1(b)(3); Sygnetics, Inc., B-404535.5, Aug. 25, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 164 at 4.

This is important when challenging the agency’s technical evaluation record in a bid protest.

Under FAR 104 What are Elements of Contractor Responsibility?

When the contracting officer makes a responsibility determination, the evaluators should look at:

  • Whether your company has adequate financial resources to perform the contract, or the ability to obtain them. (see FAR 9.104-3(a));
  • Whether your company is able to comply with the delivery or performance schedule ( the agency should consider any business or commercial commitments
  • Whether you have a satisfactory past performance record, and
  • You have a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics
  • Your company has the necessary organization, experience, accounting and operational controls, and technical skills, or the ability to obtain them (including, as appropriate, such elements as production control procedures, property control systems, quality assurance measures, and safety programs applicable to materials to be produced or services to be performed by the prospective contractor and subcontractors
  • Have the necessary production, construction, and technical equipment and facilities, or the ability to obtain them (see FAR9.104-3(a)); and
  • Be otherwise qualified and eligible to receive an award under applicable laws and regulations (see also inverted domestic corporation prohibition at FAR 9.108).

What Can You Do?

When challenging contractor responsibility determinations in a bid protest, you can look into showing that the contracting officer unreasonably failed to consider available relevant information or otherwise violated statute or regulation.  See 4 CFR 21.5(c); Greenleaf Constr. Co., Inc., B-293105.18, B-293105.19, Jan. 17, 2006, 2006 CPD ¶ 19 at 13-14.

  • Companies may want to provide this information with the proposal.

When making a contractor responsibility determination, the court will not place the burden on the contracting officer to seek out information. It is up to the bidder to provide relevant information.

The additional information provided should have  a strong bearing on whether the awardee should be found responsible. Greenleaf Constr. Co., Inc., supra, at 14 (contracting officer ignored known information and instead based his determination of the awardee’s financial responsibility on information known to be inaccurate); Southwestern Bell Tel. Co., B-292476, Oct. 1, 2003, 2003 CPD ¶ 177 at 8-10 (contracting officer failed to consider serious, credible information regarding awardee’s record of integrity and business ethics in making his responsibility determination).

See information about finding a small business nonresponsible.

For help with protesting adverse contractor responsibility decisions in a bid protest, call Watson & Associates’ bid protest lawyers at 1-866-601-5518.