Military contract dispute stalls levee repair

On Behalf of Dunlap Fiore, LLC |

Our readers in Baton Rouge may take interest in a contract dispute over a levee repair project that involves the same bid solicitation process employed by the government to recruit contractors in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The dispute, raised by a company that did not receive a contract award, centers on the government’s use of a certain kind of contract — a multiple award task order contract — for soliciting project bids.

A spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged that multiple award task order contracts are uncommon, but said that this type of contract facilitates large projects by allowing the government to employ multiple contractors assigned to specific project tasks.

The company’s protest has brought work on the project to a halt, as required by federal law, just as bid-winning contractors geared up to begin work. The Corps of Engineers will review the company’s protest and its original bid proposal before reaching a final decision on the merits of the company’s complaints. The Corps has provided no estimate of how long it will take to reach a final decision, so contractors who anticipated already being at work will be left in limbo until the dispute is resolved.

The federal government is required to give fair consideration to every contract bid. In most cases, contractors who feel that they have not received fair treatment in a federal bid award will have an opportunity to petition the contracting agency for reconsideration.

Government contract decisions can also be subject to review by the federal courts. If the court finds that the government breached its duty to fairly consider a contract bid, the court may issue an injunction. The court cannot, however, order the government to award a contract to a specific bidder.

Louisiana contractors considering a federal court challenge to a government contract decision should be aware that they face a high bar. The courts will afford a high degree of deference to agency decisions. A company filing a complaint about the government’s bidding process or award decision bears the burden of proving that the government acted arbitrarily.

Source: Southeast Missourian, “Bid protest stops work on Birds Point levee,” June 20, 2012