By Christine V. Williams
Outlook Law, LLC
August 28, 2017
Protest of Archimania, B-414653, (August 2017), reiterates appropriate forum for size protests and examines personal conflict of interest for an evaluator of the proposal at issue.
In the case of Archimania, a size protest was brought against Duvall Decker Architect (“Duvall”), a small business located in Mound Bayour, Mississippi. Archimania alleged that Duvall, inter alia, was not a small business and one of the evaluators had a personal conflict of interest and should not have evaluated the proposals. The GAO examined both those allegations and found that the appropriate forum for size protests for small businesses is the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. As to the potential personal conflict of interest (which can sometimes implicate the Procurement Integrity Act, but did not here), the GAO examined what factors are used for that analysis and why Duvall had no such conflict.
- One of the five evaluators was a private sector practioners and CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
- The evaluator was the keynote speaker at the AIA national conference, which had a screening video featuring Duvall.
- Archimania claims this relationship demonstrated a conflict of interest on the part of this evaluator.
- GAO evaluated the allegations.
- Personal conflicts of interest may arise in the context of individuals who assist the government during procurements. FAR 3.101-1, 3.1101. See Savannah River Alliance, LLC, B-311126 (2008).
- A personal conflict of interest arises from “a situation in which a covered employee has a financial interest, personal activity, or relationship that could impair the employee’s ability to act impartially and in the best interest of the Government when performing under a contract.” FAR 3.1101.
- Contracting agencies are generally responsible for reviewing potential conflicts of interest posed by relationship between the evaluators and offerors in order to ensure impartiality in the evaluation and to preserve the integrity of the procurement process. Phacil Inc., B-406628 (2012).
- Where a protestor alleges that an individual is biased because of his or her past experiences or relationships, we focus on whether the individual involved exerted improper influence on the procurement on behalf of the awardee, or against the protestor. Phacil, Advanced Sys. Tech., Inc., Eng’g and Prof’s Servs., Inc., B-241530, B-241530.2 (1991).
GAO stated in this case there was no conflict for the following reasons:
- The CEO/evaluator was likely familiar with all the firms that submitted statements of interests.
- The evaluator had no personal or financial interest in Duvall.
- The evaluator did not participate in the production of the film, did not know the firm existed until Duvall was selected as the most qualified firm on the current procurement.
- The evaluator also signed a conflict of interest statement that stated he had no conflict of interest.