Detica – b-400523 (Dec. 2, 2008)

VRC, Inc. – B-310100 (Nov. 2, 2007)

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VRC, Inc. – B-310100 (Nov. 2, 2007)

Protest that contracting agency should not have disqualified the protester because of an organizational conflict of interest (OCI) is denied where the agency reasonably found that an OCI existed based on the fact that an individual employed by a company with ownership ties to the protester was assigned to work in the agency’s contracting office in connection with the procurement at issue. Two days after receipt of proposals, the contracting officer rejected the protestor's proposal after learning of ownership ties between the protestor's proposed subcontractor and a consulting firm under contract with the agency to provide acquisition support services to the contracting officer for the procurement. The consulting contractor's employee had access to source selection information, the independent government estimate, the source selection plan, and other offerors' proposals, and provided assistance with the evaluation of competing offers. The protestor argued that regardless of the relationship, there was no OCI because the chief of the contracting division expressed a binding opinion that the relationship did not lead to an OCI. GAO disagreed, citing Federal Acquisition Regulation subpart 9.5, which places responsibility for determining the existence of an OCI solely on the contracting officer, with no provision for redelegation of that authority. The protestor also argued that the agency showed no "hard facts" to demonstrate it had possession of source selection information as a result of the contractor employee's work for the agency. GAO agreed that a determination to exclude an offer must be supported by facts; however, it noted that the facts required are those that establish the existence of the OCI, not its specific impact. Where, as here, the facts demonstrate that an OCI exists, the harm from that conflict, unless it is avoided or adequately mitigated, is presumed to occur. The protestor contended it had "firewall arrangements" in place that the contracting officer should have found sufficient to mitigate any OCI. On this argument, the contracting officer noted that had the business relationship been known before receipt of proposals, mitigation might have been possible, but because it was not brought to her attention until two days afterward, she saw no way to successfully mitigate the OCI. GAO saw no basis to question the reasonableness of this decision.

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