On December 10, 2016 and again on December 12, 2016 insideARM wrote about the announcement from the Department of Education (ED) regarding their selections for the new student loan debt collection contract. In those articles we suggested that many, if not all, of the 41 unsuccessful bidders would likely seek a formal debriefing from ED. We also suggested that protests would be likely as well. 

insideARM committed to continued monitoring of the story.

This morning at 7:45 AM EST ED posted a notice entitled “Debriefing Requests - Solicitation Number: ED-FSA-16-R-0009” on the General Accounting Office (GAO) FedBizOpps web site. The synopsis of the notice was:

“Due to the number of debriefing requests, all Offerors will receive a response to their requests no later than 5:00pm EST, December 23, 2016.”

insideARM Perspective

The debriefing is considered the prelude to any potential protest. insideARM has heard from industry sources that many of the unsuccessful bidders are considering filing a protest.

Procedures for protests to GAO are found at 4 CFR Part 21 (GAO Bid Protest Regulations).  The rules are not perfectly clear. insideARM suggests interested parties consult with their attorneys to obtain an interpretation. 

However, it appears that the time for filing a protest is governed by § 21.2

  • 21.2 Time for filing.
  • (a)(1) Protests based upon alleged improprieties in a solicitation which are apparent prior to bid opening or the time set for receipt of initial proposals shall be filed prior to bid opening or the time set for receipt of initial proposals. In procurements where proposals are requested, alleged improprieties which do not exist in the initial solicitation but which are subsequently incorporated into the solicitation must be protested not later than the next closing time for receipt of proposals following the incorporation.
  • (2) Protests other than those covered by paragraph (a)(1) of this section shall be filed not later than 10 days after the basis of protest is known or should have been known (whichever is earlier), with the exception of protests challenging a procurement conducted on the basis of competitive proposals under which a debriefing is requested and, when requested, is required. In such cases, with respect to any protest basis which is known or should have been known either before or as a result of the debriefing, the initial protest shall not be filed before the debriefing date offered to the protester, but shall be filed not later than 10 days after the date on which the debriefing is held. (Emphasis added by insideARM)

Thus, it appears that the December 23, 2016 date is going to be the outside date for starting the clock on filing of a protest. It will be interesting to see whether the debriefings will take place via telephone or whether they will be written.  It is also not clear from the announcement whether all debriefings are going to occur on the same day.

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