One happy byproduct of pursuing a winning Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protest (secondary to obtaining the contract award), is that the GAO can recommend that the agency reimburse your costs of filing and pursuing the protest – including attorneys’ fees. For small businesses, the GAO recently confirmed the added bonus of not capping attorneys’ fees at any set amount or rate.
In GAO case B-408124, 6K Systems Inc.(6K) – a small business – maintained successive protests concerning an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) solicitation seeking offerors to provide a knowledge management portal, government online learning center, and e-Training program for the agency’s Human Resources Solutions enterprise.
Following the successful conclusion of the protests, 6K submitted a claim for costs totaling $27,112.50 and comprised of 120.5 hours of attorney work at the billing rate of $225 per hour. OPM balked at the demand – countering with an offer to reimburse 6K for only 82.05 attorney hours at a rate of $150 per hour.
The GAO agreed with 6K and granted nearly the entire claim (excluding only minimal attorney time for costs incurred prior to filing the protest). OPM’s objections to both the amount of time and hourly rate were rejected:
• With respect to the number of hours, GAO concluded that the agency provided no basis to support the notion that 6K incurred more attorney hours than a “prudent person” would typically incur to file and maintain the protests;
• For the attorneys’ hourly rate, the GAO noted that small businesses like 6K are specifically excluded from the $150/hour limit imposed on large businesses.
Every dollar counts for small businesses, so the costs and fees associated with filing and maintaining a bid protest should not serve as a barrier for pursuing a protest to correct a procurement error by the government