Contracting

Senate passes bill to close GAO oversight loophole

Shutterstock image: discussing a contract. 

A bill to reinstate and make permanent the Government Accountability Office's authority to arbitrate contractors' protests of civilian agency awards issued will advance to the desk of the president.

The GAO Civilian Task and Delivery Order Protest Authority Act of 2016, sponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), passed the Senate by unanimous consent Nov. 30. The bill cleared the House in September.

The bill extends to GAO the authority to hear and decide protests of civilian agency contracts over $10 million in value. That authority had been in place under a previous law, but expired under a sunset provision on Sept. 30.

The reason for this authority is for contractors to appeal to Congress's investigative arm to make sure contracts are awarded in an open and fair manner. The bill was originally timed to extend GAO's authority and avoid the gap, but the Senate wasn't able to move in time.

Meadows noted that the expiration has already forced GAO to dismiss a protest over a contract awarded by the National Institute of Health.

Under current law, the Department of Defense grants GAO a permanent authority for contractors' protests for awards in excess of $10 million under the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act. However, civilian agencies were not similarly covered.

"This is a common-sense policy," Meadows said. "In the federal government's issuing of contracts, transparency and fairness are always standards we should strive toward, and we are now one step closer to updating our laws and ensuring that civilian award protests can continue."

Co-sponsor Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) added, "This bill will provide a level playing field and help make sure that the taxpayers are getting the best possible value for every dollar spent."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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