VA failed to set aside work for vets, GAO finds

The Government Accountability Office sided again with a bid protestor May 30, saying the Veterans Affairs Department should have set aside a contract for emergency notification services to a service-disabled veteran.

GAO sustained a protest by Kingdomware Technologies of Waldorf, Md., which charged that VA officials didn’t comply with the law and regulations related to the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act. It requires VA to conduct market research to find at least two service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) that could perform the work.

For the emergency notification services, VA officials awarded the contract to another company when market research conducted by Kingdomware found at least 20 SDVOSBs on the General Services Administration’s Federal Supply Schedule that could be potential awardees.

VA officials maintained that the FSS acquisitions are not affected by the SDVOSB set-aside authority in the law. They said the set-asides are discretionary under FSS.

In March, GAO sustained a similar protest related to an ice maker and dispenser for shipment to Sheridan, Wyo. In that protest, VA officials argued that the law affords them the option to consider when they should set aside a contract and when to compete it openly. Officials could restrict competition based on the progress VA has made on reaching its annual small business contracting goals.

GAO said the law had no such ambiguous language but officials should first seek to award contracts to service-disabled veterans. GAO disagreed too with VA on similar grounds in Kingdomware Technologies’ protest.

As for Kingdomware Technologies, GAO recommended canceling the current contract and conducting another competition for the work as a set-aside for SDVOSBs, as long as two or more companies meet the requirements at a reasonable price.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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