GAO wants to charge companies disputing federal contract awards

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Companies looking to contest contract awards with the federal government may have to pay a fee to the Government Accountability Office to have their protest bid arbitrated, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

GAO is asking Congress to approve a $240 “file to bid” fee to help fund a new online docket system that will allow the agency’s employees to better organize and manage a growing caseload related to contracting disputes. The fee would help cover the system’s $450,000 operation expenses -- especially useful if Congress does not approve taxpayer money for the project.

Ralph White, GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law, told Bloomberg Businessweek that a new system would help employees answer and filter through the thousands of protest-related emails filling their inboxes each year while increasing transparency throughout the entire process.  

“We’ve got to find some way to improve and streamline how we handle protests and this idea is meant to be one possible way,” White said.

Bloomberg Businessweek said there were 2,475 protests filed in fiscal 2012, a 75 percent increase since fiscal 2007 and the highest number of protests since 1995. Small business contractors were the most frequent protestors, and L-3 Communications and Northrop Grumman Corp. topped out the list for large contractors.

Though some members of Congress may protest the fee as a burden on small businesses, Bloomberg Businessweek said there is precedent for such a fee mechanism in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which charges a $350 filing fee. 

(Image via NAN728/Shutterstock.com)

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