Protester’s contention that the agency failed to adequately mitigate the risk of organizational conflicts of interest (OCI) associated with the selection of the awardee is denied where the record shows that: the contracting officer reasonably concluded that the risk of a conflict of interest in this procurement is not great; the agency requested a detailed OCI mitigation plan from the awardee and sought additional information about, and modifications to, the plan; and the contracting officer reasonably concluded, after performing a detailed analysis, that the modified plan--together with certain steps designed to increase agency oversight of the contractor--was sufficient to protect the government’s interest.
The regulatory guidance governing OCIs that may arise in the performance of government contracts is set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at subpart 9.5. One of the situations that creates a potential OCI is where a firm’s work under a government contract entails evaluating itself or its own products. FAR sections 9.505, 9.508, PURVIS Sys., Inc., B-293807.3, B-293807.4, Aug. 16, 2004, 2004 CPD para. 177 at 7. The concern in such situations is that a firm’s ability to render impartial advice to the government will be undermined, or impaired, by its relationship to the product or services being evaluated; as a result, such situations are often referred to as “impaired objectivity” conflicts of interest. Aetna Gov’t Health Plans, Inc.; Foundation Health Fed. Servs., Inc., B-254397.15 et al., July 27, 1995, 95-2 CPD para. 129 at 13.
When the facts of a procurement raise a concern that a potential awardee might have an OCI, the FAR requires the agency to determine whether an actual or apparent OCI will arise, and to what extent the firm should be excluded from the competition. Id. at 12. The specific responsibility to avoid, neutralize or mitigate a potential significant conflict of interest--and to do so as early in the acquisition process as possible--lies with the CO. Id.; see FAR sect. 9.504.