By Nick Economou, SBTDC/PTAC Counselor at UNC-Charlotte
As a bidder to a government contract proposal or bid, you are entitled to find out why you didn’t receive the award or, if you won, find out how well you did in comparison to other bidders. I had a client who visited my office and was upset about losing their third consecutive bid. When I asked if they knew why, they responded they had no clue. A debriefing is a valuable opportunity to help you learn to prepare more successful contract bids or proposals in the future and to challenge the agency’s evaluation and their award decision.
Debriefings are different from notifications to unsuccessful bidders. The government contracting officer or buyer must notify bidders promptly and in writing when their proposals are excluded from the competitive range or eliminated from the competition (see Federal Acquisition Regulation 15.503 for coverage on debriefings). Debriefing of successful or unsuccessful bidders may be performed verbally or in writing. There is no specific requirement to hold face-to-face debriefings.
For pre-award debriefings, you may request a debriefing by submitting a request to the contracting officer within three days after receipt of the notice of exclusion from the competition.
You will be entitled to:
- the agency’s evaluation of significant elements of your proposal;
- a summary of the rationale for eliminating you from the competition; and
- answers to your questions on whether the regulations were followed and whether the evaluation factors were appropriately used.
In terms of a post-award debriefing, you must submit your request within three days after the date on which you were notified of a contract award.
The regulations require that debriefing include:
- the Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the bidders proposal;
- the overall evaluated cost or price, and technical rating of the successful bidder and your offer, and past performance information on you;
- the overall ranking of all bidders; and
- a summary of the rationale for the award.
Requesting a Debrief After an Unsuccessful Bid
As an unsuccessful bidder, requesting a debriefing helps you better understand why you were unsuccessful and helps you gain knowledge that will improve your chances of success in the future. Debriefings can also help you make a decision to either protest or sue.
If you learn of something that you deem is a basis for a protest, you may file a protest either with the Agency or with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). If the Government reveals information about you that is prohibited from disclosure or exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act, then you have a basis for filing suit against the Government.