GAO sees more bid protests in 2009

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Government Accountability Office saw the number of contract protests increase by 20 percent in fiscal 2009.

GAO received 1,920 bid protests from vendors last year up from 1,652 in 2008, the audit agency says in its latest report to Congress released Monday.

The number of protests are up by more than 600 since 2005 and more than 800 since 2001. This is third year in a row vendors have submitted more complaints to GAO than the year before.

GAO attributes half of the increase to its broader jurisdiction. The agency says 168 of the 337 protest increase can be attributed to vendors protesting task orders (139 filings), agencies filing complaints over public-private competition under A-76 (16 filings) and the Transportation Security Administration acquisition process moving under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) instead of the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules (13 filings).

The latest numbers also show the number of cases decided on merit-either sustained or denied by GAO-increased to 315 from 291, but the number that were sustained dropped to 57, a 3 percent decrease from the year before. This is the lowest number sustained in the past five years. For instance in 2005, GAO sustained 71, and in 2007, it sustained 91.

The report finds more agencies and vendors are turning to Alternative Dispute Resolution to solve their problems. GAO finds that the number of ADR cases increased to 149 from 78. Of those 149, 65 (12 percent) required GAO to conduct a hearing.

Along with the bid protest report, GAO reported to Congress that one agency, the Small Business Administration, did not follow their recommendations. Agencies do not have to follow GAO’s decision, but by law, the audit agency must report the agency’s actions to Congress.

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