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Government Contracts

Bid Protest Over Lack of SAM Registration Accuracy

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Doublecheck your SAM registration accuracy! What's SAM?  The System for Award Management (SAM) is an official website of the U.S. government. To receive government contracts, you must register in SAM. There is no cost to use SAM.We urge all our clients to be thoughtful about not only their corporate documents (such as articles, operating agreements and bylaws), but to double check the accuracy of their DUNS and SAM registration accuracy.

SAM is an Important Database

Government contracting officers often rely on the information in these systems when making their decisions. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also upheld contracting related decisions by contracting officers that rely on this information – even if the information in the databases is out-of-date or inaccurate.

In the Matter of Nationwide Value Computer, Inc. (Nationwide) (GAO File: B-411190, dated June 11, 2015) the GAO denied and dismissed a protest against an agency decision to exclude a small business from an award because the small business failed to certify itself as a small business in SAM. Nationwide protested the issuance of a purchase order to a competitor by the Department of the Navy, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), for information technology support. Nationwide argued the purchase order should have been issued to Nationwide because it is a small business and it submitted the lowest-price bid.

NAVSEA issued the solicitation as a total small business set aside. The solicitation incorporated a number of standard Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clauses governing commercial items acquisition, including clause 52.212-3, Offeror Representations and Certifications – Commercial Items. This clause requires firms to electronically complete the representations and certifications provisions on the SAM website. It also requires an offeror or bidder to certify that it is eligible for award under a small business set-aside acquisition.

Even though Nationwide’s bid quoted the lowest evaluated price, the contracting officer concluded that the protester was not eligible for award because it had not certified that it was a small business concern in SAM.

Nationwide argued that its bid identified Nationwide’s socioeconomic status as “Small Business” and therefore, it should not have been excluded. However, the GAO decided that despite the information in the bid, the FAR requirements control and the agency's action was reasonable because the solicitation specifically required firms to complete the applicable small business representations required by FAR clause 52.212-3 in SAM.

The GAO decision also highlights the importance of scrutinizing the language of a solicitation. The contract award of about $175,000 was certainly worth the time it would have taken to ensure that Nationwide's representation and certifications to the government were up to date and accurate.

Helping Small Businesses

Our law firm helps Clients who compete and win government contracts with this type of review prior to submitting offers. It is certainly more cost-effective to go into a procurement knowing exactly what is required (for example, by using opportunities to ask questions of the contracting officer) than to try and protest an award.  Our law firm also helps new entities or entities that have never registered their business properly in the primary government vendor databases. All we need to help is your company's federal tax ID number (EIN), DUNS code (if you have one, otherwise we will get you one), NAICS code (if you know, otherwise we will help you with this too) and checking account number.

If you think your business would benefit from our expertise in the federal procurement arena, please send us an email so we can schedule a consultation.

About the AuthorDan McAuliffe

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