Goodway Graphics of Virginia, Inc.; NPC, Inc.; P.A. Hutchison Co.

B-297789: Mar 21, 2006

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Goodway Graphics of Virginia, Inc., NPC, Inc., and P.A. Hutchison Co. protest the Government Printing Office's (GPO) decision to cancel an invitation for bids (IFB) issued pursuant to GPO's Program 421-M for production of Army books and pamphlets. The protesters assert that the agency lacked a compelling reason to cancel the IFB after bid opening.

We deny the protest.

B-297789, Goodway Graphics of Virginia, Inc.; NPC, Inc.; P.A. Hutchison Co., March 21, 2006

Decision

Matter of: Goodway Graphics of Virginia, Inc.; NPC, Inc.; P.A.Hutchison Co.

File: B-297789

Date: March 21, 2006

AnthonyW. Hawks, Esq., for the protesters.

LaTonyaD. Hayes, Esq., Government Printing Office, for the agency.

KennethKilgour, Esq., and Christine Melody, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO,participated in the preparation of the decision.

DIGEST

Where Government Printing Office (GPO)failed to comply with its policies regarding compilation of a bidders list andpublication of an invitation for bids (IFB), GPO reasonably determined that ithad a compelling reason to cancel the IFB after bid opening and resolicit its requirements.

DECISION

Goodway Graphics of Virginia,Inc., NPC, Inc., and P.A. Hutchison Co. protest the Government PrintingOffice's (GPO) decision to cancel an invitation for bids (IFB) issued pursuantto GPO's Program 421-M for production of Army books and pamphlets. The protesters assert that the agency lackeda compelling reason to cancel the IFB after bid opening.

We deny the protest.

The IFB was sent to 22 firms on October 27, 2005, and 16contractors responded. Bid opening washeld on November 17. The discovery thatone of several incumbents had been unintentionally excluded from the agency'sbidders list prompted the agency to investigate the procurement. That investigation uncovered two significant deviationsfrom the procurement policies contained in GPO's Printing ProcurementRegulation (PPR). The agency did notpost the IFB on either the GPO or Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps)Internet websites,[1]see PPR, Chap. VIII, sect. 5.4, and the agency excluded twoincumbent contractors from the agency distribution list. See PPR, Chap. X, sect. 1.1(b)(4). On December 6, the contracting officer soughtthe concurrence of the GPO Contract Review Board in her decision to cancel andreadvertise the solicitation, as required by PPR, Chap. I, sect. 10.4(a)(2). The Board unanimously concurred with thecontracting officer's decision.

On December 9, the agency reissued the IFB to 21contractors with a December 19 bid opening date. Twenty-two contractors submitted bids, sixmore than responded to the first solicitation.This protest followed.

The PPR requires that there be a compelling reason tocancel an IFB after bid opening. PPR,Chap. XII, sect. 2(a); News Printing, Inc., B-274773.2, Feb. 11, 1997, 97-1 CPD para. 68 at 2.[2] Determining whether a compelling reasonexists involves the exercise of the contracting agency's judgment; we reviewsuch a determination only to ensure that it is reasonable. News Printing, Inc., supra.

The PPR states that an IFB may be cancelled after bidopening where cancellation is –clearly in the best interest of thegovernment.— PPR, Chap., XII, sect.2.1(b). Here, the contracting officerhad two principal reasons for concluding that the cancellation was in thegovernment's best interest: the agencyfailed to publish the solicitation on FedBizOpps;[3]and the agency failed to solicit two incumbents.[4] As explained below, we think the contractingofficer's decision to cancel the solicitation and, in the resolicitation, toadhere more closely to the policy guidance in the PPR, was reasonable.

The PPR provides that contracting officers –shall promoteand provide for competition to the maximum extent practicable.— PPR, Chap. VIII, sect. 3.4(a). Under the PPR, the term –maximum extentpracticable— is defined to mean that –all responsible sources are permitted tocomplete.— Id.sect. 3.3.[5] In this case, it clearly was reasonable forthe contracting officer to conclude that the failure to publish the IFB on FedBizOppsmay have impeded all responsible sources from competing. Compounding that failure, two incumbentcontractors were not sent the IFB, also contrary to the policy in the PPR toinclude previously successful bidders on the bidders list. PPR, Chap. X, sect. 1.1(b)(2). Under these circumstances, it was reasonablefor the contracting officer to conclude that cancellation would serve thepublic's interest in maximizing competition.Kertzman Contracting, Inc.; Centigrade, Inc.—Entitlement to Costs,supra.

In support of their position that the cancellation lackeda compelling basis, the protesters argue first that the grounds cited by thecontracting officer reflect GPO policy, not regulations, and that the agency actionsnot taken were optional, not required. We recognize that some provisions of the PPRdescribe the procedures to be used in mandatory language, while otherprovisions are expressed in terms of a policy to be followed.[6] These differences in terminology in the PPRare not dispositive of the propriety of the decision to cancel, however;rather, it is clear that, as discussed above, the PPR directs contractingofficers to promote and provide for maximum competition that offers the opportunityfor all responsible sources to compete. As discussed above, the record shows that thecancellation here was consistent with that responsibility.

The protesters also argue that one of the incumbentcontractors not solicited originally failed to take advantage of theopportunity to obtain a copy of the solicitation through a bid subscriptionservice, and that its failure to do so, rather than the agency's failure tosolicit the firm, was the principal reason that the incumbent did not receive acopy of the IFB. This argument does notsupport the conclusion that the cancellation was improper. The central issue here is whether theagency's failure to publicize the solicitation and to include two incumbents onthe bidders list justifies cancellation of the solicitation in furtherance ofthe government's interest in maximizing competition. As explained above, we conclude that itdoes. We therefore see no basis to questionthe contracting officer's decision to cancel the IFB.

The protest is denied.

Anthony H. Gamboa
General Counsel



[1] The PPR states that GPO's policy is topublish solicitations in the Commerce Business Daily, which has been replacedby the FedBizOpps website. VSE Corp.;Johnson Controls World Servs., B-290452.3 et al., May 23, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 103 at 5.

[2]Although GPO, as a legislative branch agency, is not subject to the FederalAcquisition Regulation (FAR), C-Cubed Corp., B-289867, Apr. 26, 2002,2002 CPD para. 72 at 3, both GPO's PPR and the corresponding FAR provision, sect.14.404-1, require a compelling reason to cancel an IFB after bid opening.

[3]While the protesters do not concede that the agency failed to publish the IFBon FedBizOpps, the record contains a declaration by a GPO senior publishingspecialist stating that she has knowledge that the publication did not takeplace, and the record contains no evidence from the protesters that the IFB waspublished.

[4]GPO procedures allow any party to purchase in bulk copies of all GPOsolicitations; distribution firms that subscribe to this service then make thesolicitations available to their own subscribers. As another factor bearing on the decision tocancel, the agency noted that the subscription bid service which normally wouldhave distributed the IFB to interested potential bidders, including one of theincumbent contractors omitted from the bidders list, maintained that it did notreceive the IFB until one day prior to the bid opening—too late to send it toprospective bidders. The record is notclear on these facts; the knowledgeable GPO official states that the bidservice in fact received the IFB on the date it was issued. We need not resolve this issue, however,given our conclusion that the cancellation was justified on the other groundsdiscussed below.

[5]This is the same definition as for –full and open competition— under theCompetition in Contracting Act of 1984.41 U.S.C. sect. 403(6) (2000); Kertzman Contracting, Inc.; Centigrade,Inc.—Entitlement to Costs, B-259461 et al., May 3, 1995, 95-1 CPD para. 226 at 3.

[6]For example, the PPR states that the agency's –policy— is to include previouslysuccessful bidders on the bidders list, PPR, Chap. X, 1.1(b), but that thebidders list –shall— be compiled by including the previously successful vendor. PPR, Chap. X, sect. 1.1(e).Similarly, the PPR states that the agency –should— publish certainsolicitations on-line, PPR, Chap. VIII, sect. 5.4, but, that to allow contractorswho are not on the current bidders mailing list time to request and receivesolicitations, proposed procurements –shall— be publicized on-line 15 daysbefore the issuance of solicitations.PPR, Chap. VIII, sect. 5.5.

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