Deciding whether and when to protest can be challenging. The questions potential protestors need to consider include:
- Is the protest meritorious?
- Is it timely?
- Is the potential protestor an “interested party”?
- Is it the right business decision?
Anyone who answers these questions in favor of protesting all the time — whether the protest is meritorious or not, and whether it is timely or not — may end up like a company called Latvian Connection LLC which has been suspended from filing any protests for the next year because of its “vexatious” filings.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Latvian Connection has filed 150 protests thus far this fiscal year. Of the 131 protests closed to date in this fiscal year, one was denied on the merits. The remaining protests were dismissed, the most common reason being that Latvian Connection was not an interested party. GAO found that Latvian Connection had no direct economic interest in any of the procurements it protested. Indeed, it’s not clear from these protests what Latvian Connection’s line of work is–although it does (or did) seem to be in the business of filing protests. A non-exhaustive list of Latvian Connection’s protests in 2016 includes acquisitions for engineering services, furniture, cell phone services, landscaping services, housekeeping and facilities operation services, printing and delivery services, antennas, laundry chemical services, portable generators, basic life support services, stevedoring and marine cargo handling services, industrial-size frequency converters and uninterruptable power supply batteries, passenger vehicles, refrigeration containers, industrial truck scales, the lease of barges, medical equipment and supplies, safety shoes and vests, anti-microbial medical privacy curtains, brake test machines, and the repair and alteration of an airfield in Bahrain.
A number of Latvian Connection’s most recent protests, according to GAO, have been attempts to challenge acquisitions where the contract in question was awarded years ago. GAO also noted that Latvian Connection filed an additional 296 protests in prior fiscal years, mostly in the last five years. In addition, the firm has filed 9 requests that it be reimbursed its protest costs (all were dismissed as legally insufficient), and 40 requests for reconsideration (4 pending, 3 dismissed as untimely, and 33 dismissed as legally insufficient). In a single week in fiscal year 2015, Latvian Connection filed 59 separate protests challenging what the protester termed were Air Force solicitations. All 59 protests were dismissed when it became evident that the 59 solicitations that Latvian Connection was challenging did not actually exist.
On other hand, if a contractor’s protest is meritorious and timely and the protester is an “interested party,” then, GAO says, “Our forum remains available to protesters with legitimate concerns regarding the propriety of an agency’s procurement activities.”
The decision is Latvian Connection LLC, B-413442 (Aug 18, 2016), available at http://www.gao.gov/products/B-413442.