Contracting

GAO denies Equifax bid protest

Shutterstock image (by kmlmtz66): businessman confronting a judge's gavel. 

The Government Accountability Office denied Equifax's protest of an IRS award to Experian for identity management and taxpayer fraud protection services.

Because of delays incurred as a result of the protest, IRS awarded an extension to Equifax's existing contract. That move that touched off a firestorm of criticism on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers expressing anger and alarm that the vendor would win an identity management award less than a month after it announced a breach in which sensitive personal data of up to 145 million Americans was compromised.

The IRS suspended the $7.2 million bridge contract with Equifax Oct. 12 after it was discovered that code from a third-party vendor was redirecting users to malware on the company's website.

In an Oct. 16 statement, Ralph O. White, GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said that the Equifax protest was based on "an unreasonable interpretation of the solicitation."

GAO rejected arguments from Equifax that alleged that its rival Experian, which won the contract, wasn't able to meet the technical requirements of the solicitation. In its statement, GAO concluded that, "IRS reasonably found that the Experian offer would meet the agency's needs."

The complete protest results are not yet public, due to a GAO protective order that limits access to outside parties due to proprietary or confidential information. GAO is will ask all parties to identify any information that falls into this category so the agency can remove it and publish the results.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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