A solicitation will advise offerors of how to deliver their proposals, and it is critically important that offerors adhere to the specified delivery method – and time requirements – when submitting a proposal to a government agency. Many government solicitations provide for electronic submission of proposals and, for Department of Defense (DoD) solicitations, the proposal submission method is often the DoD Secure Access File Exchange (DoD SAFE). In a recent decision, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) held that emailing a proposal was not a proper substitution for DoD’s approved submission methods.

The Proposal

In GSI Construction Corp., B-418967 (Oct. 28, 2020), the Air Force issued an RFP for construction services. The RFP permitted proposals to be submitted by uploading the proposal into DoD SAFE, by mailing the proposal, or by hand delivering the proposal. While from GAO’s decision there was some question as to whether GSI actually uploaded its proposal to DoD SAFE, GSI argued that it had uploaded the proposal – although it did not receive confirmation – while the Air Force disputed that GSI uploaded the proposal at all. Regardless, it was clear to GAO that the Air Force never actually received the proposal in DoD SAFE.

GSI emailed the proposal directly to the contracting officer and the contracting specialist. The emailed proposal was received by the contract specialist one minute before the time set for receipt of proposals. Nevertheless, the contracting officer determined that she could not accept the proposal. GSI then protested.

The Protest

GSI argued that it submitted its proposal to the government office designated in the RFP by the time specified, and the Air Force unreasonably did not to consider its proposal. Under FAR 52.215-1, an offeror has to submit an electronical proposal so as to reach the government office designated in the RFP by the time specified. According to GSI, it met this requirement since GSI’s proposal reached the contract specialist prior to the due date and time.

The Decision

GAO disagreed. It held that emailing the proposal was not authorized by the RFP. As a result, GSI’s proposal was not submitted to the government office designated in the RFP by the time specified, and the agency’s decision not to consider GSI’s emailed proposal was reasonable.

This case is another example that contractors who fail to comply with the agency’s instructions for proposal submission may have their proposals rejected and not considered for award.

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