Many businesses go through name changes and rebranding throughout their growth as a company. But if you’re a government contractor, a business name change requires added updates that, if not done correctly and promptly, can affect the business’s ability to win a contract. GAO’s recent decision hammered home just how important it is to make sure your contractor profiles are updated if you want to win contracts.
Just this past week, GAO released a decision that showed how crucial it is to update SAM.gov and CVE profiles to avoid losing out on contract awards. GAO’s decision in Sanford Federal revolved around an SDVOSB name change and how delays in processing name changes can sink even the best proposal.
On June 13, 2019, the VA issued a Request for Proposals, 100% set aside for SDVOSBs, seeking temporary janitorial services. The RFP incorporated VAAR § 852.219-10, which requires all offerors be verified as an SDVOSB in the CVE VIP database and meet the definition of an SDVOSB. The RFP went on to also explicitly state that “only verified SDVOSBs listed on the VIP database at the time of proposal submissions and at time of award shall be considered for award and unverified firms will be considered non-responsive and ineligible for award.”
The protester, Sanford Federal, submitted the lowest priced proposal for this RFP. However, upon examination of the proposal, the Contracting Officer could not verify that Sanford was an SDVOSB, as required by the VAAR and the terms of the RFP.
Sanford was not listed by name as a verified SDVOSB on the VIP database and could not be found on SAM.gov. Sanford’s proposal did contain a DUNS number and CAGE code but it brought up results on VIP and SAM.gov for a verified SDVOSB called FAR Solution, Inc. There were no indicators in the proposal, on VIP, or on SAM.gov that showed FAR Solution was related to Sanford. Therefore, the Contracting Officer rejected Sanford’s lowest-priced proposal for not being a verified SDVOSB.
Sanford explained in its protest that it was formerly named FAR Solution and under that name it is a verified SDVOSB. FAR Solution had completed a corporate name change to Sanford with the state in which it was incorporated, and on June 11 had submitted a name change request to SAM.gov. Sanford asserted the VA said that it must update its SAM profile before updating the name in the VIP. Consequently, Sanford had not submitted a name change to the CVE to update its VIP profile because it was waiting on the SAM name change.
Sanford also believed that the name change request for its SAM profile would be complete prior to the proposal submission deadline. Sanford mentioned that it included the DUNS number and CAGE code on its proposal in order to indicate that FAR Solution, an SDVOSB, was the same entity as Sanford.
GAO did not buy Sanford’s argument about indicating its name change and found that the VA did not err in its rejection of Sanford’s proposal. GAO specifically pointed to a number of valid reasons for VA to reject the proposal, such as Sanford not mentioning the name change in its proposal, not explaining why the DUNS Number and CAGE code show FAR Solution, and not explaining how Sanford and FAR Solution are the same business.
GAO held that offerors bear the responsibility for submitting a well written proposal with adequately detailed information showing compliance with the requirements of an RFP. The most favorable interpretation of Sanford’s proposal as written, would still result in uncertainty as to which entity is the true offeror.
In a long footnote, GAO made sure to mention that, regardless of what the VA told Sanford, its VIP profile was not updated with the new name as required by the RFP. FAR Solution’s VIP profile did not reflect the new name of Sanford by the required time in the RFP and nothing in Sanford’s proposal reasonably established that it was the same entity as the certified SDVOSB, FAR Solution. Therefore, Sanford did not adhere to the terms of the RFP and the VAAR.
This case is a great reminder to contractors of best practices after a change to key business information such as the entity name. In those circumstances, a contractor must ensure all information and certifications required by a solicitation are up to date, including any online profiles. This is especially true when dealing with certain set-aside contracts, such as for SDVOSBs. As Sanford found out, even if you have the lowest priced bid, you could still be rejected for award because you did not fully update your VIP and SAM profiles with the most current information before bidding.