Understanding The Agency’s Obligations When Conducting Meaningful Discussions
Understand the Basics of Agency Obligations
When a government agency conducts discussions in a negotiated procurement, such discussions must be meaningful. The Agency must identify deficiencies and significant weaknesses in your proposal that could reasonably be addressed to materially enhance the your potential for receiving award.
- The Agency is not required to discuss every aspect of your proposal.
- The Agency is not required to discuss aspects of your proposal where you have already received a favorable evaluation score.
No Misleading Discussions Allowed When Agency Talks to You
When conducting meaningful discussions, the law prohibits the Agency from misleading you through the framing of a discussion question into responding in a way that does not address the agency’s actual concerns, or otherwise misinform you about a problem with your proposal.
Meaningful discussions should be conducted with each contractor determined to be within the competitive range.
- Discussions should be conducted with each contractor are tailored to that contractor’s proposal.
- Discussions should consider significant weaknesses, deficiencies, and other aspects of each contractor’s proposal that could be altered or explained to materially enhance the proposal’s potential for contract award.
Ask Questions for Better Understanding
As a government contractor, you should also make sure that you ask affirmative questions during discussions. You have an obligation to seek clarification. This can help to build your record in the event of a bid protest.
However, when considering the definition or meaning of meaningful discussions, realize that the agency is not required to spoon feed each bidder. Instead, the agency is supposed to raise critical issues about your proposal. You must understand what is the lack of meaningful discussions.
GAO Analysis in Bid Protests
In the protest of AINs, Inc, GAO sustained a protest when the Department of Justice failed to conduct meaningful discussions with protester where it did not reasonably tell the protester of the agency’s real concern with protester’s quotation–that evaluators considered its project schedule to be too short.
Agency’s request during discussions that protester submit a new project schedule as part of its final revised quotation did not reasonably convey to the protester that the evaluators viewed its proposed schedule as too aggressive, particularly given that a period of over a year had elapsed between submission of initial quotations and submission of final revised quotations.
The bid protestor also prevailed because GAO found that the agency evaluation of quotations received in response to solicitation for establishment of a blanket purchase agreement for an automated Freedom of Information Act system and associated services failed to prove that the evaluation was reasonable and even-handed.
Final Proposal Revision Allowed
After the agency has conducted meaningful discussions, if you are still within the competitive range you must be given an opportunity to submit a final proposal revision by an established cut-off date.
When an agency engages in meaningful discussions with a vendor, the discussions must be truly “meaningful,” that is, sufficiently detailed to lead the vendor into the areas of its quotation requiring amplification or revision. Honeywell Tech. Solutions, Inc., B-400771, B-400771.2, Jan. 27, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 49 at 10. Click here to read entire GAO bid protest decision.
Call Watson & Associates’ bid protest lawyers for additional questions about meaningful discussions or bid protest representation at 1-866-601-5518 for a free consultation.
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