Evidence Talks, Wishy-Washy Insinuation Walks: Protester Alleges PIA Violation But Prevaricates When Pressed for Evidence; Alpine Companies, Inc., GAO B-419831 et al.

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Protest alleging that agency failed to properly investigate a violation of the Procurement Integrity Act is dismissed. While proposals were being evaluated, the protester notified the agency that one of the offerors was boasting that it was the awardee and was negotiating with incumbent staff. When the agency asked for further information, the protester declined to provide additional evidence and stated it wanted to drop the matter. Following award, the protester alleged the agency had failed to properly investigate its alleged PIA violation. GAO noted that a protest alleging a PIA violation must be filed within 14 days of when the protester learns of the possible violation. Here, the protester had informed the agency of a possible violation, but it refused to provide additional evidence for the violation and did not protest the alleged violation in 14 days. Under the circumstances, GAO found the PIA protest untimely.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) posted a solicitation seeking loan servicing support services. While HUD was evaluating proposals, one of the offerors, Alpine Companies, Inc. emailed the agency with concerns about rumors it had been hearing about another offeror, Information Systems and Networks Corp, (ISN). Alpine reported that it had been advised that ISN was holding itself out as the awardee and negotiating with incumbent staff. Alpine further alleged that it had been advised by HUD employees that the evaluation of Alpine was not based on the company’s qualifications.

HUD responded, explaining that no award had been made and that proposals were still being evaluating. HUD noted that Alpine’s allegation indicated a possible Procurement Integrity Act violation. HUD asked Alpine to clarify its allegations and to specify when the allegations were made, who had made them, and what they actually said.

Alpine replied that the people who made the allegations would not go on the record for fear of losing their jobs. Thus, Alpine stated that it was no longer interested in pursuing the issue and would let it drop. The company really just wanted to make sure it was receiving a fair evaluation.

HUD ultimately awarded the contract to ISN. Alpine protested the award.

Alpine alleged that HUD had erred in finding the company’s proposal technically unacceptable. GAO found no error. GAO noted that the solicitation provided clear time table for specific deliverables. Alpine’s proposal explicitly did not meet those time tables. The proposal was thus technically deficient on its face. HUD did not err in rejecting Alpine’s proposal.

Alpine also alleged that HUD failed to properly investigate its allegations concerning violations of the Procurement Integrity Act. GAO noted that under federal statue, a person must file a protest alleging a PIA violation within 14 days after they first learn of the violation.

Here, Alpine initially notified of the agency its concerns about the PIA within 14 days of learning about the possible violations. But GAO noted that these allegations were vague and did not credibly allege a PIA violation. When HUD tried to further investigate, Alpine declined to provide further informantion; in fact, Alpine had told the agency it was not interested in pursuing the matter further. One these facts, GAO concluded that Alpine protest allegations did not satisfy the timeliness requirements for a PIA protest.

Alpine is represented by Jerry A. Miles, and Arti Kane of Deale Services, LLC. The intervenor, ISN, is represented by James A. Tucker, Damien C. Specht, and David Allman of Morrison & Foerster LLP. The agency is represented by Julie Cannatti, Justin Hadelden, and Julie Holvik of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. GAO attorneys Michael Willems and Edward Goldstein participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - Alpine Companies, Inc.