Late is late. All government contractors know the rule. Submissions must be received by the Agency at the time indicated, or else risk being excluded. Still, as we start the New Year, it bears repeating because of the new and exotic ways we still see the rule popping up and harming contractors.
Today – we look at the perils of Agency spam filters.
Advanced Decisions Vectors (ADV) was an offeror on a Department of Homeland Security 8(a) set-aside contract for consulting services. The RFP called for proposals to be submitted by 10 a.m. Eastern on September 8. ADV claimed that sent its proposal by email before the deadline (with 5 minutes to spare!), but the Agency disagreed – it did not receive the proposal – and disqualified ADV.
The catch is that ADV’s proposal (which was, indeed, submitted on time) did not pass through the Agency’s firewall, onto the server, and into the email inbox. Left in limbo, the email was automatically deleted as “potentially malicious” by the Agency, leaving no way to determine whether the proposal within was complete.
ADV filed a protest, claiming that it was improperly excluded on these grounds. It did send the email on time, after all. The GAO disagreed. The key was that the RFP expressly advised all offeros that they would receive a reply emailing confirming the receipt of the proposals. ADV did not receive the confirmation, and did not promptly follow up to verify.
GAO dismissals on timeliness grounds are nothing new. In the past, we’ve looked at cases where the GAO examined the time that a protest was filed down to the exact second.
So, what can be done about it? ADV’s predicament offers two lessons:
- If possible, always file a day early. It is easier said than done, but consistently setting your internal alarm clock for filings a full day early can become a beneficial routine. It is extraordinarily difficult to be five minutes late when you are a full day early. Also, if there is an issue with an email attachment or other electronic glitch, you will have left yourself enough time to make course corrections on the fly.
- Send and verify. A simple confirmation email would have saved ADV from its fate. If the agency does not offer an automatic receipt confirmation, it is worth the time and effort to follow up with the agency directly and confirm receipt.