In a recent decision, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained a protest challenging the terms of a solicitation, as the solicitation impermissibly required that a protégé and mentor in a joint venture have the same level of experience as other offerors. This is an important decision for companies that are parties to a joint venture, and a reminder to carefully review a solicitation’s requirements before submitting a proposal.
As relevant background, the Small Business Administration (SBA) revised its regulations in November 2020. Prior to November 2020, SBA’s regulations provided that, in evaluating proposals submitted by a joint venture, agencies must consider the past performance of the joint venture entity itself and each party to the joint venture. Effective November 16, 2020, this provision was expanded to include capabilities, experience, business systems, and certifications. SBA explained that while a small business protégé should have some experience in the type of work to be performed, “it is unreasonable to require the protégé concern itself to have the same level of past performance and experience (either in dollar value or number of previous contracts performed, years of performance, or otherwise) as its large business mentor.” Consolidation of Mentor-Protégé Programs and Other Government Contracting Amendments, 85 Fed. Reg. 66146, 66167 (Nov. 16, 2020).
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See also, this Small GovCon article: https://smallgovcon.com/gaobidprotests/gao-solicitation-cannot-require-a-protege-have-the-same-experience-as-its-mentor/