The best way to differentiate between a bid protest and contract dispute is to first establish whether there is actually a contract. During the bid protest stage, the only one who actually has a contract is the awardee. In a government contract protest, the protestor is not a party to the awarded contract.
When there is a contract dispute, legal action typically occurs during or after contract performance.
This is important because the Contract Dispute Act allows you to seek the court’s help in disputes related to a contract. In a bid protest, there is really not contract being performed. The legal dispute is generally who will get to perform the contract.
In 1978, the Contract Dispute Act (“CDA”) was enacted to set forth procedures to deal with disputes. This CDA process applies to all disputes arising under or relating to a government contract.
To file a case with either the Board of Contract Appeals of U.S. Court of Federal Claims, you want to make sure that you have followed the administrative process under the Contract Dispute Act. Failure to follow this important process, and receipt of a contracting officer’s final decision can cripple your case on appeal.
Filing a government contract bid protest, on the other hand means that you are exercising your rights under GAO and procurement laws to convince the court that the agency did not follow its solicitation criteria or that the source selection evaluation decision was unreasonable. Another approach is to look at a bid protest as occurring before contract performance.
When looking at the difference between a bid protest and a contract dispute, another important feature is the litigation process itself. Bid protests on one hand are governed by bid protest regulations. On the other hand, contract disputes are regulated primarily by the Contract Disputes Act.
For further assistance with either a contract dispute or a filing a bid protest, call government contracts attorneys at 1-866-601-5518.