Feds’ move to e-forms delayed by third protest

GSA awaits GAO decision on award to Formatta

The government’s plan to standardize and manage electronic forms governmentwide has been put on hold — again. The General Services Administration awarded an e-forms contract in January for a third time, with the latest round going to Formatta. However, the original contractor and another losing bidder protested the decision to the Government Accountability Office.

Intercon Associates, the incumbent vendor, said GSA erred in its evaluation of bids. Cerenade joined the company in the protest.

This string of awards and protests has stalled GSA’s initiative to manage electronic forms. GSA wants an e-forms system so that users can put data in a form, electronically sign the form and send it securely to the government for automatic processing. That approach would save time and money and reduce errors, according to GSA’s latest request for proposals.

GSA hired Formatta under a $1.1 million, one-year contract that includes four option years. Joseph Whitemore, Formatta’s chief executive officer, said he hoped the protests would end. “It’s now in GAO’s hands,” he said.

Formatta has filed a motion to intervene, under which it will submit briefs to GAO regarding the protest. The motion also requires GAO to send Formatta copies of related notices.

GSA awarded Intercon the contract in 1998. When the agency recompeted it in 2004, that company won again. However, a losing bidder protested that decision. After revising and releasing the contract, GSA awarded the contract to Information Analysis in June 2006. Intercon then protested, and GAO sustained that company’s protest.

“Intercon protests virtually every evaluated disadvantage relating to its proposal, maintaining that the agency’s findings are either unsupported, otherwise erroneous or inconsistent with the terms of the solicitation,” GAO said in its Aug. 10,  2006 decision. “We have reviewed the record here and conclude that the evaluation is not adequately supported.” As a result, GSA started the process again.

Intercon and Cerenade filed their latest round of objections with GAO Feb. 20 and 21, respectively.

GAO attorney Scott Riback said the two protesting companies contend GSA incorrectly evaluated their proposals, causing them to lose out on the contract.

GAO has until early June to rule on the matter, Riback said.

Since GSA first attempted to recompete this contract three years ago, Intercon has protested each subsequent award. And because that company is still getting paid for its work, it makes sense for it to continue to protest, industry experts say.

In addition to recompeting the contract, GSA attempted to address GAO’s latest decision in reviewing proposals.

“GSA had a totally new source-selection team with no crossover or knowledge of previous competitions, and they still awarded it to someone else,” said a government official familiar with the contract.

Intercon officials would not comment,  and Cerenade executives could not be reached for comment.

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