When it comes to responding to federal government proposals, agencies must be clear on what they want the general public to bid on. The issue of the meeting the ambiguous definition often comes up in a government bid protest. The definition of ambiguous in a government RFP occurs thenAmbiguous Defintion - What Does Ambiguous Mean in Government RFPs? two or more reasonable interpretations of the particular solicitation is possible.

When filing a bid protest to either GAO or the Court of Federal Claims, any one person’s interpretation to the RFP term(s) does not need to be the most reasonable.

Instead, government contractors only have to show that their reading of the solicitation was  “reasonable and susceptible of the understanding reached.

Patent Ambiguity – Ambiguous Definition

When considering the ambiguous definition in a government RFP, companies often see latent ambiguity concerns as well as patent ambiguity. Patent ambiguity occurs when a government RFP contains obvious, gross or glaring mistakes.

A latent ambiguity, on the other hand, is not as obvious. In bid protest litigation, GAO must first determine when language meets the definition of ambiguous.

A patent ambiguity occurs when the contract contains facially inconsistent provisions that would place a reasonable contractor on notice and prompt the contractor to rectify the inconsistency by inquiring of the appropriate parties.” Stratos Mobile Networks USA, LLC v. United States, 213 F.3d 1375, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2000). Uner 4 CFR 21.2(a)(1)., ambiguous solicitation requirements and terms must be protested before the closing dates for your bid.

Uner 4 CFR 21.2(a)(1)., ambiguous solicitation requirements and terms must be protested before the closing dates for your bid.

Latent Ambiguity Definition

A latent ambiguity not that obvious when reading a government RFP. It must also not be discoverable by the “reasonable care” standard. See Guzar Mirbachakot Transp., 104 Fed. Cl. at 65.When government contractors are not sure whether the solicitation terms meet the ambiguity definition, they should seek to clarify the RFP requirements.

The contracting agency should give bidders an opportunity to submit their proposals give the newly-clarifies requirement, GAO will often sustain a bid protest when the government’s latent ambiguity prevents bidders from competing intelligently.

Duty to Inquire If Solicitation is Ambiguous

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled that  “where a government solicitation contains a patent ambiguity, the government contractor has a duty to seek clarification from the government, and its failure to do so precludes acceptance of its interpretation in a subsequent action against the government.” See Blue & Gold Fleet, L.P. v. United States, 492 F.3d 1308, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

This is but one reason to carefully read the solicitation for any signs of ambiguous language. Waiting until after the award may be too late.

Ambiguity Examples

There are a variety of examples of vague terms in a government RFP. Some ambiguity definition examples include:

  • Relevant experience definition versus relevant past performance
  • Best value
  • Corrective action
  • qualifications

The definition and meaning of ambiguous can often be the gist of any bid protest litigation. Always read the solicitation in its entirety before quickly concluding that terms and conditions have fallen short of the definition of ambiguous.  See more information on how to bid on government contracts.

For additional questions and or concerns about the ambiguity definition or what does ambiguous mean when it comes to government RFP’s, call our bid protest lawyers for help at 1-866-601-5518.

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