Failure To Submit an Original Bid Guarantee at Bid Opening Is Not a “Minor Informality”: Hamilton Pacific Chamberlain LLC, No. B-40979
On August 11, 2014, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) sustained a protest on grounds that the winning contractor’s bid was nonresponsive because the contractor provided only a copy of the required bid guarantee with the bid. Hamilton Pacific Chamberlain LLC (“HPC”) had protested the award of a service-disabled veteran-owned small business set-aside contract for steam trap replacement and installation of a new steam trap monitoring system at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland to Utility Systems Solutions, Inc. (“US2”). US2 itself had protested to the agency contracting officer’s initial decision that US2’s bid should be rejected because it had not provided the required bid guarantee. The VA had upheld US2’s protest after determining that US2 had submitted a copy of its bid guarantee with its bid, and it had concluded that US2’s failure to provide an original bid guarantee should be considered a minor informality or irregularity that US2 cured after bid opening.
However, the GAO concluded that US2’s submission of a photocopied bid guarantee without original signatures was not a “minor informality or irregularity” that may be waived or cured after bid opening. In coming to this conclusion, the GAO noted that a bid guarantee was a material condition of the Invitation for Bid with which there must be compliance at the time of bid opening, and that precedent established that copies of bid guarantee documents generally do not satisfy the requirement for the submission of a bid guarantee. Accordingly, the GAO recommended that the VA reject US2’s bid as nonresponsive.