GAO Makes It Easier to Protest

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is bringing its bid protest process into the 21st Century. In May, GAO will launch a secure and easy to use web-based electronic system for groups filing bid protests for Federal contract awards.

The new electronic bid protest docketing system, or EPDS, is designed to provide a more seamless and efficient process for all participants. It has the ability to send real-time notices to Federal agencies of new protest filings as well as notice to all parties to a protest of subsequent protest filings, according to the GAO.

Effective May 1, 2018, all new protests of government contract awards must be submitted and managed through EPDS, except for those including classified material. There will be a $350 filing fee. Funds from the filing fee will be used to pay for the operation and maintenance of the system. The system is accessible at https://epds.gao.gov.

EPDS is a major step forward from the current system of either emailing protest-related filings to a single GAO email address, faxing them, or hand-delivering them to the GAO. “This new system modernizes the bid protest process at GAO and will make it a much more efficient process,” said Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States and head of the GAO.

GAO has been conducting a pilot program for EPDS since February. More than 90 protests have been filed under the pilot, and more than 600 users have registered for accounts in EPDS.

Morrison and Foerster, a well-known law firm that represents government contractors, recently had one of its bid protests selected for participation in the pilot program. Writing in February about their preliminary impression of EPDS, two lawyers from the firm said, “the system is easy to navigate, straightforward, and user-friendly–and will significantly relieve the current aggravation of keeping other parties’ email addresses straight, and finding documents emailed to one (but not all) of a party’s counsel.”

Organizations should take note that even though a protest must now be filed with GAO through EPDS, protesters still must provide a copy of the protest to the contracting officer separately, Morrison and Foerster’s lawyers advise.

GAO has posted how-to videos on the GAO website, describing EPDS features.  Technical and electronic filing requirements and other related reference materials are available at http://www.gao.gov/legal/bid-protests/file-a-bid-protest. This site will also be updated with revised reference materials, including updates to GAO’s Descriptive Guide to Protests and Guide to GAO Protective Orders.

In connection with the implementation of electronic filing, GAO has also issued final revisions to its Bid Protest Regulations in the Federal Register.  Those final regulations will go into effect on May 1, 2018.

Easier to protest–and hopefully quicker to resolve.

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