If a bid on a public contract is not complete or does not conform to the solicitation, it is considered nonresponsive and must be rejected. But what if the deviation or nonconformity results from government mishandling of the bid package? That was the apparent situation in a recent bid on a federal contract. The bid was rejected because it was accompanied by only a photocopy of the bid bond, not the signed original. The disappointed bidder cried foul.
The bidder insisted its submittal had included the original bid bond. The bidder submitted sworn affidavits from employees and a letter from its surety in support of this position. The bidder theorized that the government contracting officer had forwarded the photocopy of the bid bond for legal review and had accidentally lost or destroyed the original. But it was all to no avail.
On federal contract bids, there is no effective remedy for an isolated act of government negligence which renders a bid nonresponsive. If there is a systematic failure of procedure which results in multiple or repeated instances of lost documents, there may be a remedy. But for the one-time screw-up: nothing.
Is this rule fair? What has your experience been with lost or mishandled bid documents? I welcome your comments.
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