Bid Protests

What is a bid protest?

A bid protest is a complaint that:

  • the terms and conditions of a public solicitation (federal, state, county, school board, etc.) violate the rules of competitive bidding; or
  • that a contract award in regard to a public solicitation was not made in compliance with the procedures provided for award in the solicitation; or
  • does not comply with law or regulations.

Where do protests get filed?

State and local protests are filed with the specific agency conducting the procurement. The bid documents will usually provide a name and address for submission of a protest.

Federal Protests can be filed with the:

  1. Contracting Officer conducting the procurement; or
  2. Agency conducting the procurement; or
  3. Government Accountability Office; or
  4. Court of Federal Claims.

Selecting the place to file the protest is a complex issue. You should obtain the advice of an experienced protest attorney before making this decision.

What happens if I file a protest?

If you file a pre-award protest, the agency must suspend the award process until the protest is resolved.

If you file a timely post-award protest, performance will be suspended until the protest is resolved.

Do I need an attorney to file a bid protest?

While you can pursue most protests without an attorney, due to the very strict and limited time periods for filing a protest, it is advisable that you consult an attorney experienced in state or federal protests immediately upon receipt of an adverse award decision or upon your first awareness of an irregularity in the procurement process. If you are contacting an experienced bid protest attorney, the attorney will recognize the need to talk with you immediately.

What are the time periods for filing a protest?

In Florida, you must file your Notice of Intent to Protest within three (3) days of learning of the award or intended award.

For federal contracts, you must file the protest within ten (10) days of the day you knew or should have known of the basis for your protest.

Regardless of whether the protest involves a federal or State of Florida contract, if the protest is a pre-award protest you must file your protest before proposals and/or bids are due.

Are there different types of protests?

Yes, protests fall into two general groups: pre-award and a post-award.

A pre-award protest challenges the terms in the RFP (Request for Proposal), a post-award protest challenges the way the winner of the competition was chosen. For example, in a pre-award protest, if there is anything in a solicitation that appears to give an advantage to one bidder over another or is unclear, you must challenge that provision before you submit your bid or proposal. If you fail to do so, you will not be able to protest that issue after the award, or intent to award is announced.

In a post-award protest, if you know or have reason to believe, that award was not made in strict compliance with the award procedures provided for in the solicitation or if the award was made in some way that was “adverse to competition” or “fundamentally unfair,” you may have a good basis for a protest.

How do I know if the award process was not conducted in strict compliance with the terms of the solicitation?

If the procurement is a federal procurement, you are entitled to a debriefing upon request. The debriefing may be orally or in writing. The debriefing will typically give you some insight into the ways the award decision was made.

Will our company be “blackballed” by the agency if we protest an award?

An agency may not “blackball” you because you filed a protest.

What is the most important item to keep in mind regarding bid protests?

You need to act quickly. If your protest involves a Florida state agency, county or city you only have three (3) days after the Notice to Intent to Award is published/issued* to file protest. If you are protesting a federal contract, you only have ten (10) days after the Notice of Award is published/issued* to file a protest and suspend performance of the awarded contract.

While there are some exceptions to these strict time limits, it is very rare that an exception applies. If you are considering a protest, you need to promptly consult an attorney experienced in bid protests.

*TIP… If your bid documents state that the award will be published or posted at a certain time or location, it is essential for you to check for the Notice of Intent to Award or Notice of Award at that time.