Justice and Law Enforcement:
Correction of Apparent Clerical Mistakes in Bids
B-197785.2, Jul 7, 1980
An agency official expressed concern as to whether a statement in a recent decision effectively precluded any correction of the contract unit prices shown on the bids received and materially negated the use of a provision in the Federal Procurement Regulations (FPR) to correct any apparent clerical mistakes. In that decision, correction was not permitted because while there were wide differences in the unit and extended prices, either could hae been reasonably intended. It has been consistently held that if evidence establishes that a mistake was made in the unit price and that the extended price is correct, the extended price must control. FPR procedures for handling mistakes in bids prior to awards are based on the rule which holds that acceptance of a bid with knowledge of an error does not consummate a valid and binding contract. Before correction of an apparent clerical mistake can be made, the contracting officer, without benefit of the advice from the bidder, must be able to ascertain the intended bid. However, this does not mean that the contracting officer is free to correct the bid without first seeking verification from the bidder. The FPR provision applies to cases of apparent clerical mistakes as well as other mistakes. The statement in the decision meant only that correction under the FPR is limited to cases where the intended bid is obvious from the bid itself and did not require any explanation as to what was intended. The need for verification prior to correction was not eliminated. The high standard of proof which must be met before correction is authorized protects against potential fraud flowing from a decision allowing bid correction.